East Hills, NY (PRWEB) December 04, 2012
The holidays are a difficult and emotional time for many people. For those who are grieving, the holidays can be fraught with anxiety and sadness, especially if one has had a loss in the past year. In fact, living through the holidays feels, to some, like walking through a minefield. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, many families already in grief in the New York Metropolitan area will be finding these holidays even more difficult. The loss of homes, belongings and general sense of security and well-being threaten to amplify the grief already felt by bereaved families who will need more support this holiday season than ever before. COPE (Connecting Our Paths Eternally), a grief and healing organization helping parents, siblings and families living with the loss of a child, offers tips for coping with the holidays after a loss.
“Here at COPE, we hope to bring some relief to a challenging time of year to those who have lost a cherished loved one,” says Laraine Gordon, LCSW, COPE’s Clinical Director. She offers the following suggestions for those who are grieving during this holiday season:
- Talk about how things will be different and brainstorm ways you can adjust the holiday celebration, by scaling it back or transforming it. Speak with family and friends ahead of time and devise a plan.
- Remembering your loved ones, being kind to yourself, pacing your activities and not taking on too many responsibilities are all ways to practice self-care during this holiday season.
- Let others support you and take advantage of the support provided by COPE or another bereavement organization.
- Give yourself permission during this holiday season to take a break as holidays can intensify your already complicated emotions related to your loss. Take ten minutes and find a quiet place to relax, without feeling guilty.
- Start a new tradition in remembering your loved one, something that will be meaningful to you, e.g. light a candle, or say a few words of remembrance.
- Tell stories. Share pictures. Listen to their favorite music and even sing their favorite songs. Toast to them. Let their memories be a blessing.
Ms. Gordon adds: “One of the reasons we are particularly vulnerable to feeling these losses at this time of year is that these holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa) emphasize family togetherness and close friends. The holidays have the power to stir in us memories of years past when we may have been all together. If you have had any loss, the void is particularly poignant this time of year. Celebrations may feel like a personal affront, and it is okay to decide you are simply not up for participating in the festivities. There is no right or wrong way to handle the holidays; do what is best for you at this time, for this season.”
Lilly Julien, President and Founder of COPE, personally has had to work through these difficulties during the holiday season since losing her 20-year-old daughter Michelle in 1992. “Soon after my daughter passed, I had no interest in doing holidays at all. Now, years later, I’ve found ways to bring my daughter into our holiday gatherings by having her picture visible, encouraging family to share a memory, and always making a toast to her,” says Ms. Julien. With regards to the additional issues caused by Hurricane Sandy, Ms. Julien remarks: “Not only trees but lives have been uprooted. Once again, in the aftermath of the storm of losing a child, we rediscover our lives suddenly changed.”
COPE will be holding a special candle lighting service and healing workshop on Sunday, December 9th at 7pm at the Elias Hicks Home in Jericho in honor of National Children's Memorial Day to help grieving families in the area work through this difficult time. 20% of all families in the United States at any one time are living with the loss of a child. One in seven Americans loses a parent or sibling before the age of 20. Additionally, nearly three percent of men and 12 percent of women in the United States are widowed.
COPE, a not-for-profit foundation, 501(c)(3), is dedicated to helping parents and families living with the loss of a child. Since 1999, COPE has served the needs of approximately 500 families on Long Island and the greater New York City area by providing emotional, therapeutic and spiritual programs (at no cost to participants). These include parent and sibling support group meetings, individual one-on-one support, alternative healing workshops, and a variety of special programs for clergy and mental health professionals. COPE also runs Camp Erin New York City, a bereavement camp for children ages 6-17 suffering from a major loss. In addition to assisting local families, COPE’s grief hotline and website enable the organization to provide grieving individuals outside of Long Island with immediate support and resources and referrals. Anyone interested in donating to COPE or learning more about the organization can do so online at http://www.copefoundation.org. For more information on COPE, please contact Karen Flyer, Executive Director, at 516-484-4993 or karen (at) copefoundation (dot) org.