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Grief Webinar Series–Join us!

Happy Thanksgiving! This week, the Thanksgiving holiday propels us into another holiday season. All around us, people seem to be planning and celebrating. Friends and family express thanks for their many blessings; Christmas music plays on the radio; holiday cards arrive in the mail; decorations are hung; and plans are made to reconnect with friends and family. But, amidst the joy, laughter and sparkle, for those grieving the loss of a loved one, this time of year is fraught with anxiety, stress and maybe even dread.

Over the years, Hospice of the Red River Valley has offered various articles and tips for coping with grief. And, this year, we are pleased to share grief information with you in our upcoming Confidence in Care webinar series. Please join us for this informational webinar series where you’ll learn about:

Anticipatory Grief
Tuesday, November 27, 2-3 p.m.
This webinar will define anticipatory grief and dispel myths associated with this type of grief. Participants will explore different types of anticipatory loss and identify challenges and issues faced by individuals and families dealing with anticipatory grief. Click here to register.

Grief and Loss Awareness
Tuesday, December 4, 2-3 p.m.
Participants in this webinar will learn about various types of grief, factors that influence grief and suggestions for successfully handling grief. They will also learn how to identify warning signs of complicated grief, and how to seek help for those dealing with complicated grief issues. Click here to register.

Professional Caregiver Grief and Grief in the Workplace
Tuesday, December 11, 2-3 p.m.
This webinar will provide a way for health care professionals to explore issues of grief and loss as it relates to their roles as professional caregivers. Participants will also learn strategies to help grieving co-workers. Click here to register.

Please note: While these webinars are intended for health care professionals (nurses, certified nursing assistants, social workers, chaplains, physicians, etc.), the series is free and open to anyone who might find value in this information.

This Thanksgiving, we are so thankful for you—our readers, supporters, advocates and partners in care. We are truly blessed to live and work in the communities we call home. Happy Thanksgiving!

For more information about Hospice of the Red River Valley, please visit our website or contact us at 1-800-237-4629.

Coping with Grief during the Holidays: Resources for the Grieving, Tips for Everyone

Traditionally, the holidays are a time of joy, laughter, sparkle, glitter and celebrations shared with family and friends. But for individuals who are grieving the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be difficult, bringing about feelings of anxiety, sadness and emptiness. As the holidays approach, it may be helpful to think about how to take care of yourself during this difficult time, or to be aware of the effect the holidays may have on your grieving family or friends.

Over the years, Hospice of the Red River Valley has offered various articles and tips for coping with grief during the holiday season. The below articles offer helpful reminders:

No One Makes Pie Crust Like My Mother–Coping With Grief During the Holidays

Life has been different this year. And the upcoming holidays will be very different. That’s what happens when you lose someone you love. My mother died on December 31, 2010, and because she lived less than five minutes from us and I talked to her every day and saw her at least once a week, adjusting to a new normal has not been easy. Read more.

Grief During the Holiday Season: How Do You Cope?

Ordinarily, we think of the holidays as a busy, joyous time. But when one is grieving the death of someone beloved, there is nothing “ordinary” about it. Holidays are typically filled with memories and reflection, so it is not surprising that the longing we may feel for that absent loved one intensifies against the backdrop of festive bustle. There may be reminders that cause an ache in one’s spirit, such as a card addressed to the deceased, a gift that would have suited him perfectly or her favorite Christmas song playing on the radio. Read more.

Grief During the Holiday Season: Embracing Memories

“Christmas 2004: This was an even-numbered year, which meant it was our turn to celebrate the holiday with my husband’s side of the family in Bismarck; odd-numbered years had traditionally been spent with my side of the family. But current circumstances dictated differently. My Mom was temporarily staying in Fargo to receive radiation treatments recommended by her oncologist, but not available in her hometown. She would not be up to a road trip, and I couldn’t bear the thought of her spending the holiday alone in an unfamiliar community.” Read more.

Celebrating the Holidays when a Loved One has Alzheimer’s

The Holiday Season is a time when families join together to make memories and reminisce.  When a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, a little extra planning can help make holiday celebrations enjoyable for everyone. Read more.

Keep in mind, a child who is grieving the death of a loved one will also experience different feelings during the holidays. They may look forward to the holidays but not know what to expect or they may want to avoid the holidays all together. It is important to involve them while preparing and planning for the holidays to allow them an opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings. Being open and honest with each other can help make the holidays less stressful for everyone.

It is important to remember that the anticipation of any holiday can be much worse than the actual event. Allow feelings of joy and try not to feel guilty if you find yourself enjoying the holidays. Having a good time does not mean you have forgotten your loved one. You cannot change the past, but you can take care of the present to help you heal in the future.

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with grief, Hospice of the Red River Valley offers a variety of grief support options, which are open to the community. Please visit our website for more information regarding our grief resource library, support groups, classes, and other means of support, or call us: 800-237-4629.

What NOT to say to a Grieving Person: Tips from a Bereavement Specialist

Jennifer MesseltBy Jennifer Messelt, MSW, LCSW

“I know exactly how you feel.”

In the nearly seven years I have worked as a bereavement specialist, I have learned this is one of most unwelcome phrases heard by those who have experienced the death of a loved one. No matter how similar two loses may seem, no two deaths are exactly the same. With grief comes a multitude of feelings, and with those feelings come individuals who experience them in their own unique ways.

“Are you still grieving?” is another unwelcome, but frequently asked question of grievers. In my work as a bereavement specialist, I’ve been asked to speak to groups as young as 5 years old.  After explaining to them what grief is, I will often ask if they know how long grief lasts. Many hands will go up in the air and the responses will vary from “one day” to “one month” to “one year” and so forth. Eventually, someone will give the correct answer—forever. That’s right. Grief lasts a lifetime.

The intensity of grief will not always be as strong. It will continue to lessen as time goes on. So to ask a grieving person, “Are you still grieving?” is not only unwelcome, it can also cause that person to feel as though something is wrong with them because they are still grieving. In fact, that person may grieve for many years to come.

Our loved ones will always be remembered and hold a special place in our hearts. Saying well-meaning things such as, “it’s God’s will,” “she’s in a better place,” it’s for the best,” or “it’s a blessing” are often not interpreted as well-meaning by the griever.

I remember attending my father’s funeral and well-meaning people made comments like these, intending to console me. It made me think, “How can this be a blessing? I don’t have my Dad anymore. Why would God want to take him from us? I want him here with us!”

Many bereavement clients say one of the most hurtful things they experience in their time of grief is when friends/acquaintances avoid them in their time of deepest need. They will often acknowledge these friends/acquaintances are likely uncomfortable with grief, but it still does not take away the pain a grieving person feels. It adds to their pain.

Instead of avoiding people who are grieving, be specific in offers to help. This could be offering to bring dinner on a certain day or offering to mow their lawn/shovel snow.

Instead of saying, “let me know what I can do to help,” say, “I would like to bring dinner over tomorrow night … would that be OK?”

This allows a grieving person to simply answer your offer versus having to ask for something they may or may not even know they need.

A welcome and helpful phrase you can share with someone who is grieving is, “I’m here for you if you would like to talk.” Being an active listener is one of the best gifts you can give to a grieving person. Ask those who are grieving to tell you about their deceased loved one. In this way, you are letting the grieving person know you are ok with his or her grief and won’t judge if he or she wants to talk about the loved one.

Speaking the deceased person’s name is also something so simple, yet so powerful to the grieving person. It has been 16 years since my father died; I still crave hearing someone mention his name. And better yet, to hear someone mention his name along with a happy memory of him. Just for a brief moment, it is as though he has come alive again through the memory shared. Another way of sharing a special memory might be by adding a personal note of a memory in the sympathy card.

Lastly, remembering a grieving a person on special days (wedding anniversaries, anniversary of the death, birthdays, holidays) can mean a lot to the grieving person, as it is likely the rest of the world has sent him or her the message that it is time to “get over it already.” Your card may be just the breath of fresh air needed.

For more information about Hospice of the Red River Valley’s grief support and services, please visit our website or call 800-237-4629 and ask for the Journeys Department.

Jennifer Messelt, MSW, LCSW, is a bereavement specialist with Hospice of the Red River Valley.

Honoring the Memories of Our Loved Ones

Connie DeKreyBy Connie DeKrey, Bereavement Specialist

I just returned from a trip to Walmart to pick up graduation cards. On my way to the Hallmark kiosk, I passed by an aisle newly designated for plastic white crosses, silk floral arrangements and wire wreath holders. Memorial Day is fast approaching.

While the original intent of this holiday is to honor soldiers and veterans who have sacrificed and left this life, many people take it as a cue to also remember other loved ones who have died.

A visit to the cemetery to place a flag or to plant flowers is certainly a fitting way to remember a loved one. But using a little creative thinking, you may come up with other ways of honoring memories. Ideas you may consider might remind you of your loved one’s personality or passions, or perhaps something unique to the relationship you shared. While perhaps less traditional, these approaches can still be appropriate and beautiful. Some suggestions may include:

  • Start a remembrance garden. When my father (a gardener also) died, I dug a new flower bed in a shady spot. I began by planting “forget-me-nots,” and gradually added other things—perennials, driftwood, stones. Working the garden offered me time to remember and reflect. And the colors and textures change as the seasons pass—much like grief itself.
  • Plant a tree. This can serve as a lasting, living tribute. Over time, the growth of the tree will remind you of your own strength in having survived your loss.
  • Plan a project day. This can be a time spent with family dedicated to making a quilt, scrapbook, or even mosaics or stepping stones. Using belongings of your deceased loved one is especially effective in such projects.
  • Organize a reunion. Gather family or friends who share the loss. Designate a time for the sharing aloud of favorite memories or stories.
    Purchase a Memory Book. Wonderful examples are available at bookstores and online. Record your memories of a loved one using the prompts provided on each page. This can become a treasured keepsake or gift to another family member who will cherish the legacy of these memories.
  • Take a field trip. Visit one of your loved one’s favorite destinations. This could be anywhere that evokes a special memory—an art gallery, restaurant, or fishing spot.

This is just a sampling of ways in which the memories of our loved ones can be honored. In honoring our memories during our time of grief, we can help ourselves work toward healing, and carry forward a lasting legacy.

If you have questions or need support dealing with grief, visit our website or contact us at 1-800-237-4629.

 

Connie DeKrey joined Hospice of the Red River Valley in 1993, and for ten years worked in patient care as a medical social worker.  She has worked with the Journeys department as a bereavement specialist for the past eight years.  She particularly enjoys the opportunity to provide education to individuals and groups about living, dying and grief.

Coping with Grief at Milestones

By Virginia Pantzer, LCSW

Grief changes things. This may sound simplistic, but when a loved one dies, our lives are never the same. Our lives continue—days come and go—but how do we celebrate milestones and grieve at the same time?

Recently, I spoke with a mother who attends a grief support group. Her story (shared with her permission) is one of double tragedy; she lost two of her three adult daughters in separate accidents within a few months. She shared it is not necessarily the “holiday” grief that is so hard to cope with, because holiday grief is more expected. The weddings of her daughters’ friends and births of their babies, or family reunions are most difficult.

“My oldest daughter never got to experience the birth of a child, and my younger daughter never had the chance to marry. It is like they were cheated out of these things because of their deaths,” she says. She says she is now able to go to receptions, but they usually arrive late, and leave early. This mother does not attend baby showers, but may send a gift directly to the new mother. “I’m not bitter, I just need to care for myself during these times,” she shares.

Perhaps these reminders may help us cope with the “milestones” in our life:

M – Memories. It is helpful to keep the memories of our loved ones alive by sharing things that mean the most to us.
I – Imagine. Try to imagine how our loved ones would want to celebrate the milestone, and incorporate it into the celebration.
L – Love. Love others and love yourself. Give yourself the time and patience you give to others.
E – Express your emotions. Let yourself laugh and cry. Sometimes we just need to let others know how we feel.
S – Search and savor. Search out your blessings and savor the simple. Take Irving Berlin’s advice and “fall asleep counting your blessings.”
T – Take charge. Make decisions that strengthen you. We build our confidence by taking charge of those things we have control over.
O – Open yourself up. Sharing our grief with someone helps, and it may give them permission to express their grief too.
N – Note your progress. Keep a journal or a diary. This helps us see our blessings and areas we need to work on.
E – Eat and exercise. The physical affects the emotional, so if you care for your physical self, your emotional self follows.

My father was a man who spoke highly of education and impressed upon us the importance of doing our best. Following his death, I found myself back in college pursuing a degree. As graduation approached, I shared with my husband that I wished I could honor my dad in some way. He recommended I have my maiden name and married name printed on my diploma. As I received that simple piece of paper on graduation day, I could almost hear my father say, “Well done.” It is a moment I will never forget; another milestone marking a memorable spot in my journey through grief.

Grief Support Resources
If you or someone you know is grieving and needs support, Hospice of the Red River Valley offers groups, classes and individual support. This spring, we will offer a series of classes called Journeying Through Grief for those who are recently bereaved, which will further explore self-care, as well as other grief-related topics. This four-session workshop will be held April 12, 19, 26 and May 3 in Fargo. The brochure and registration form is available here.

We also offer Youth Journeys, a day filled with activities and support for young people ages 6 to 18 who have experienced the death of a loved one. Youth Journeys will be held on April 14 in Fargo. More information about Youth Journeys is available here.

For more information about our grief services, call (800) 237-4629 and ask for the Journeys Department or visit our website.

Virginia Pantzer, LCSW, has been a grief specialist at Hospice of the Red River Valley for five years.

No One Makes Pie Crust Like My Mother — Coping With Grief During the Holidays

By Mary Lou Dahms

Life has been different this year. And the upcoming holidays will be very different. That’s what happens when you lose someone you love. My mother died on December 31, 2010, and because she lived less than five minutes from us and I talked to her every day and saw her at least once a week, adjusting to a new normal has not been easy.

I’m the oldest of seven and, for the last many years, have been the enthusiastic hostess for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We made that adjustment after Dad died because it was just too hard to have Thanksgiving and Christmas at Mom’s without that wonderful man at the head of the table. Now, the head of the table at our home is gone also.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to get through these two major family events and finally decided my strength comes from my attitude. If I face the holidays with dread, then they will be dreadful. So I’ve decided to summon up some creativity to put a new slant on the familiar. And by doing so, I will honor the memory of my mother.

This year for Thanksgiving, I’ll set the table with my grandmother’s dishes that were my mother’s. Then, because it’s my house, I’ll sit in Mom’s place. And since no one, and I mean no one, makes pie crust like my mother , I will make her pumpkin chiffon pie in a 9 x 13 pan. I think I may even have a small loaf of cranberry bread for each family to take home. Mom always brought one to me.

Mom and Dad’s wedding anniversary is during the holidays, and, for 30 years my sister and I sent them a red poinsettia on that day. After Dad died, we switched to a pink one for Mom. This year, I’m going to send the poinsettia to my sister. I think she’ll like that.

Right after Thanksgiving, Mom always sent each of her great-grandchildren (my grandchildren) an advent calendar. That’s my job now, and I’m even going to get one for myself. When Dad died, I bought a beautiful candle that only comes out around Christmas. It’s time for that candle to have a mate, so I’m going to buy seven more, keep one and send the other six to my sister and brothers.

Christmas morning brunch will be the same menu (hard to stray from the favorites!) and I’ll use Mom’s beautiful carolers for the centerpiece. Mom made a wonderful coffee cake that had a fantastic streusel topping, but it was often reserved for funerals or friends. I’m going to make that coffee cake for brunch and probably an extra cup or so of the topping.

New Year’s Eve will present the biggest challenge—the one year anniversary of her death. We’ll either invite several friends over (I learned to entertain from my mother), or I’ll give into the emotions and rewind the tape in my heart of Mom’s last day. Either one will be fine.

I’ve learned from our bereavement staff that you go through grief, not around it. For me, this holiday season, that means using a bit of imagination to navigate tough waters. I know this won’t make it better, but it just might make it easier.

Mary Lou Dahms is the former director of marketing and public relations at Hospice of the Red River Valley.

How to Talk to a Child about Death

By Kriston Wenzel, LSW

Talking about death is not something most of us are comfortable doing—even with other adults. Sometimes in the midst of our own grief, we forget that death can present a tremendous blow to even the youngest children. Children understand death very differently than adults, depending on their age and stage of development. Below are tips to help you talk to your child about death.

  • Be honest. Provide simple, direct and honest answers and encourage questions. If you don’t know an answer, say so.
  • It’s not your fault. Reassure the child that he/she will always be taken care of and loved and that the death was not his/her fault.
  • Don’t judge. Do not judge what a child says or does. Instead, acknowledge what is said or done to preserve trust and help him/her continue sharing.
  • Be a model. Examine yourself and your own grieving. A child learns about grief by watching you. If you hide your feelings, the child will hide his/hers. Don’t be afraid to cry around your child.
  • Watch for teachable moments. Use natural circumstances to teach the child about loss, such as the death of a pet or a change of seasons.
  • Avoid unhealthy explanations:

“He has gone on a long trip.”

The child may feel hurt that the person left without saying good-bye.

“He was taken away by God.”

The child may fear being taken away, too, or may have anger toward God. 

“She died because she was sick.”

The child might think he/she will die the next time he or she is ill. Explain to the child that the person had a disease very different from the kind he or she gets.

“She is in eternal sleep.”

Saying this may cause the child to become afraid of sleeping.

Children grieve in unique ways, and there are resources available to you and your family to help you through this difficult time. If you know a child who has recently experienced the death of a loved one, I encourage you to consider having him or her attend Youth Journeys, a special one-day support program through Hospice of the Red River Valley. For information on our upcoming session on October 1 in Fargo, please visit our website: http://bit.ly/mOM6dZ

Kriston Wenzel, LSW, is a bereavement specialist for the Journeys Program of Hospice of the Red River Valley. What she enjoys most about her work is having the chance to help individuals and families find their strength and resiliency during such a difficult time in their lives.

Strategies for Self-Care While Grieving

By Connie DeKrey, Bereavement Specialist

Each journey of grief is as unique as the individual who walks its path. That being recognized, an aspect of grief that shares commonality with all who grieve is the need for self-care.

Grief may be experienced in a variety of ways—emotionally, certainly, but also physically, cognitively and even spiritually. The reactions of our minds and bodies to grief can include such symptoms as fatigue, sleep disturbance, appetite changes, mood fluctuations, forgetfulness, loss of concentration and even despair.

Coping with this potential myriad of responses may certainly seem overwhelming, but there are some strategies which can be used in order to manage grief reactions and continue to function day to day.

  • Accept your feelings. Feelings are neither right or wrong, they just are. Sadness, lonliness, fear, confusion, anger—these are among the many feelings that may occur, and are completely normal. Emotions are often raw early in grief, but it is important to allow for their expression. To attempt to stifle feelings usually leads to their eventually erupting under far less desirable circumstances.

 

  • Be patient with yourself. Grief is an intensely personal process. Accept that it follows no magical formula or time frame. It will take as long as it takes. Think of the care you would extend to a friend in the same situation of loss, and allow yourself that same grace. Be careful to not take on responsibilities beyond what is realistic—it is better to allow for some flexibility in one’s obligations at this time.

 

  • Pay attention to physical needs. It can be very easy to neglect one’s personal physical needs during the throes of grief. But this is a time when taking especially good care of oneself is crucial. As difficult as it may seem, making every effort to get adequate sleep, eat nutritionally balanced meals and fit in regular exercise and intentional relaxation can do wonders. Think of it this way: by pursuing a healthful routine, you are actually arming and equipping yourself to take on the new challenges with which you are faced in your time of grief.  In addition to these efforts, we always recommend a check-up, and be certain to make your physician aware that you have experienced a loss.

 

  • Accept the help of others. Understand that grief is hard work—it requires a great deal of energy and can be exhausting. Even though (especially in this part of the country) we place a high regard on self-sufficiency, it is important not to hesitate to ask for/accept help from those close to you. Others care and genuinely want to be of assistance, but usually do not know what to specifically offer. In particular, it is vital to know who has a willing ear and supportive presence, because sharing aloud your story is key to healing. And remember that professional guidance is also available.

If you or someone you know is grieving, we at Hospice of the Red River Valley want to encourage you to take advantage of the groups, classes or individual support we offer through our Journeys program.

One such offering, which will further explore self-care, as well as other grief-related topics, is Journeying Through Grief, a four-session workshop for those recently bereaved. This spring’s Journeying Through Grief series will be held April 4, 11, 18 and 25 in Fargo. The brochure and registration form is available here.

For more information on this, or other Journeys programming, please call (800) 237-4629 and ask for the Journeys department, or visit our website.

Connie DeKrey joined Hospice of the Red River Valley in 1993, and for ten years worked in patient care as a medical social worker.  She has worked with the Journeys department as a bereavement specialist for the past seven years.  She particularly enjoys the opportunity to provide education to individuals and groups about living, dying and grief.

Grief During the Holiday Season: How Do You Cope?

 By Connie DeKrey, Bereavement Specialist

Ordinarily, we think of the holidays as a busy, joyous time. But when one is grieving the death of someone beloved, there is nothing “ordinary” about it.

Holidays are typically filled with memories and reflection, so it is not surprising that the longing we may feel for that absent loved one intensifies against the backdrop of festive bustle. There may be reminders that cause an ache in one’s spirit, such as a card addressed to the deceased, a gift that would have suited him perfectly or her favorite Christmas song playing on the radio.

Because this year’s holidays may be “out of the ordinary” for you due to a loss, it is important to recognize the benefit of understanding grief and implementing some strategies that can assist in coping with that grief.

  • Re-evaluate traditions – While it would seem unthinkable to depart from certain holiday rituals, this may be a year when it makes sense to pick and choose, especially given the fact that grief can consume a great deal of one’s stamina. Perhaps you choose to forgo writing an annual family newsletter, but would not want to miss the local university’s choral concert. Perhaps you may even opt to do something completely different from previous practices. It is perfectly permissible to be selective with your time and energy.
  • Formulate a plan Having a plan will give you a sense of control during this challenging time. Sharing ideas with those close to you can be helpful, but remember that no plan has to be etched in stone; you need to afford yourself the flexibility to bow out, should unpredictable grief reactions dictate this.
  • Ask for help – As previously mentioned, grief can sap you of energy and enthusiasm. The holidays are an ideal time to enlist the offers of assistance that have come from caring people, in order to manage tasks such as shopping, envelope addressing, baking and the like.
  • Attend to selfcare – Being mindful of a healthy routine of nutrition, rest and exercise is particularly important at this time, as it helps a grieving individual to feel better-equipped for handling the emotions and stresses of the season.
  • Allow for expression – Grief specialist and author Judy Tatelbaum reminds us, “The surest road through grief is to feel it and not deny it.” Nothing changes for the better when one suppresses grief. Acknowledge that the deceased continues to be loved and missed. Find a special way to embrace cherished memories.

When grieving the death of a loved one during the holidays, the sense of loss can at times be overwhelming. It can take courage to simply put one foot in front of the other. But taking a few intentional steps can help an individual begin to regain a sense of order and peace. These steps can set the course of one’s journey toward healing.

Connie DeKrey joined Hospice of the Red River Valley in 1993, and for ten years worked in patient care as a medical social worker.  She has worked with the Journeys department as a bereavement specialist for the past seven years.  She particularly enjoys the opportunity to provide education to individuals and groups about living, dying and grief.

Grief During the Holiday Season: Embracing Memories

By Connie DeKrey, Bereavement Specialist

                                                        ***
Christmas 2004: This was an even-numbered year, which meant it was our turn to celebrate the holiday with my husband’s side of the family in Bismarck; odd-numbered years had traditionally been spent with my side of the family. But current circumstances dictated differently. My Mom was temporarily staying in Fargo to receive radiation treatments recommended by her oncologist, but not available in her hometown. She would not be up to a road trip, and I couldn’t bear the thought of her spending the holiday alone in an unfamiliar community.

So, I invited my siblings and their families to Fargo for “Christmas Brunch on the Prairie,” complete with singing carols around the piano. I will never forget the image of my frail Mom, sitting by the fireplace in her wheelchair, singing “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” with such a peaceful, joyful smile on her face, surrounded by representation from four generations of her family… a memory to embrace.

Early December 2005: Once again I have invited my siblings to my home— an early Christmas, late Thanksgiving, and celebration of Mom’s birthday. Mom’s wheelchair is not parked by the fireplace this time—we had buried her just three months earlier. But I sense her spirit in our midst, and I feel her pleasure at the volume of conversation, the swells of laughter, the exchange of tears. We are continuing to convene as a family—Mom’s most heartfelt wish.
***

This time of the year at Hospice, it is typical for us to offer grieving families suggestions regarding how to cope with their sense of loss during the holidays. But beyond that, we strive to encourage them to embrace their memories. The memories of those we loved, at first very painful to recall, can become a source of an ongoing sense of connection, even after death. When we embrace these memories by celebrating the legacy of their lives, we honor the relationship that is forever intertwined with our own personhood.

I encourage the seeking of tangible, intentional ways to maintain one’s sense of connection. Think about your interests, talents, even your passions, and exercise them in a way that helps you to move through your grief in a healthy way. Some examples might include:

  • Participating in a shared remembrance tradition (such as a candle lighting or annual dinner)
  • Creating a video of your loved one’s life
  • Making a scrapbook or memory box using photos and heirlooms
  • Assembling a loved one’s favorite recipes, poems or stories into a booklet
  • Planting a tree or memorial garden
  • Having your loved one’s clothing items made into a quilt
  • Designing artwork or composing music in your loved one’s memory
  • Volunteering for, or designating a gift to, a charity in the loved one’s memory

For me, following the death of my mother, I found myself enmeshed in numerous hands-on creative projects which allowed me a good deal of time to reflect on my memories. When shared with others, these tangible projects invited the telling of stories. Stories keep our memories alive, and we will find that the healing of grief begins as these memories are embraced.

Connie DeKrey joined Hospice of the Red River Valley in 1993, and for ten years worked in patient care as a medical social worker.  She has worked with the Journeys department as a bereavement specialist for the past seven years.  She particularly enjoys the opportunity to provide education to individuals and groups about living, dying and grief.