Holidays can trigger grief

WORKING WOMAN

December 08, 1991|By Niki Scott | Niki Scott,Universal Press Syndicate

It's the season for families to draw together; for faith, celebration and warm memories; for treasured sights and sounds and scents; for time-honored customs and traditions.

If you have lost a loved one, these coming weeks can be the loneliest, most painful time of all, says Denise McNaught, founder and executive director of the National Childhood Grief Institute.

"These holidays will be the worst grieving time you'll ever go through. They'll be so painful, you may not feel as if you can live through them. You must give yourself permission just to grieve.

"Don't let anyone else tell you what you should -- or shouldn't -- be doing!" advised Ms. McNaught in a recent telephone interview from the institute's headquarters in Minneapolis.

"You have to be able to grieve or you'll never, never heal. There's no quick fix or 'how to' manual that will make this pain go away.

"We're a death-denying society -- we don't want to think about death or talk about death. We don't want to feel the sadness that comes with losing someone we love.

"So many families will be sitting at Christmas and Hanukkah tables in a few weeks, not feeling that they have permission to talk about their grief and loss, trying not to notice that their special person isn't there, trying not to acknowledge their pain.

"You need to know, instead, that nothing you can possibly do in the process of grieving is wrong. It's OK to leave the holiday dinner table. It's even OK to set a place for that special person and talk about him or her, and feel sad, and cry, if you need to," added Ms. McNaught.

"It's terribly important for you to find a support group for yourself, too, especially during this holiday season."

Your local hospital, church, synagogue, United Way office, YWCA and crisis hot line can supply you with information about support groups in your area.

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