How To Survive The Holidays Without Your Kid
This is for those of us who have lost a child or more to divorce, death, illness, and many other reasons for parenting heartbreak:
1. Do everything you can to stop depression in its tracks. Depression is reasonable and makes sense if we’ve lost a child, but depression has a certain undertow that can carry us far out to sea before we realize how far from shore we have drifted. And it’s awfully hard to swim back. Risky thing, with all those clashing currents in the deep end of the mental health ocean.
Notice yourself and the signs and do what you can to prevent depression, and if you’re already in it — stop everything and do what it takes to back it up.
2. Get philosphical. Everything happens for a reason. What is the meaning I can make out of this loss? What is the personal growth that lays in wait out of these holiday reminders of the holes in my soul? How can my experiences be of use to others? Victor Frankyl, a holocaust concentration camp survivor, wrote a book called, “Man’s Search For Meaning.” In it he talked about what he observed about the survivors of the Nazi camp verus who did not survive. One of the main features of human survival that he noticed was that those who survived found a purpose in their suffering. In my experience, that is true for most levels of suffering: If we can find a purpose, a message, a meaning for it and in the midst of it, we can come through it. More than that, we can come out with a winning set of new skills.
3. Self-care, self-care, self-care. Make a decision to set aside time (and sometimes fate flings this space upon us) to step back, reflect, take care of the basics of your personal needs. This means eat well, take showers, get enough sleep, take a walk, share a newspaper with a friend. Reflect and affirm in positive ways. These are small, and yet, can be enough! Remember string theory: When we make one small tug at the end of a string, the whole shibbang moves. One small change alters the whole web of the mess that has been thrown upon us, or that which we we have created for ourselves.
Keys: 1. Say what you need; 2. Do just one small thing and then wait. After waiting, do another small thing. And so on.
4. Procrastinate guilt. Put it off ’till tommorrow. Save it for another day. Now is not the time. Make a guilt date with yourself for Friday nine o’clock a.m. Put off remorse, self-loathing, shame and regret until that time. Then break the date. Do a no-show. Face it: Guilt and shame just do not work. They are deceivers. They do not motivate, they do not prduce long-term growth, they are not kind. Guilt and shame will hurt us. Good things to procrastinate.
The recipe for mental health says to substitute faith and forgiveness for those particular holiday ingredients.
Well, four things is plenty to do. I love the number four. It’s enough to be challenging, but still easy on the sensibilities. Here’s another four:
1. Grace is to give away. We are sometimes the receivers.
2. There is always another chance.
3. Friends need to excercise their friendship skills. We are all friends to someone.
4. If we are too depressed to believe any of this, know that it is even still, true.
Heidi D. Hansen, M.A., Mental Health Recovery Specialist c2014. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.