Happy New Year. May you be inscribed in the book of life….
This customary greeting is heard throughout the Jewish High Holy days. If you have recently experienced the death of a loved one, these words may be difficult to hear. Communities come together to worship. Family members gather to celebrate with traditional foods. These can act as a trigger for the bereaved, even if the loss was long ago.
As families dip apples in honey with the hope for a sweet new year, the grieving individual may be wondering if life will ever be sweet again. For some, the holidays can bring sadness and loneliness. People who grieve may dread this time of year and may want to skip the holiday period altogether.
Here are 6 tips to help you manage this time*:
- Plan ahead - Don't let the holidays sneak up on you. Talk with your family and friends about how you would like this year to go. Who are your "go to" support people? Spend time with them. Just because "we've always done it this way" in past years doesn't mean you must follow it this year.
- Strive for balance - You may find comfort in the liturgy, prayer, music, readings and the support of the community. Try to find a balance between time with the community and personal moments. Mourning takes so much physical and emotional energy. Build in "alone" time to recharge and tune into your own needs during this period.
- Break the conspiracy of silence - Your friends and family often feel they will upset you more by talking about your deceased loved one. You are thinking about him anyway. Make it ok by using her name and speaking about her. Others will take their cue from you.
- Share memories - We stay connected to our deceased loved ones through stories, pictures and memories. You will laugh, cry and feel sad together. This is okay; you are mourning together. This is a time of reviewing, remembering and working to do better. By sharing these memories, you create and maintain the legacy of your loved one for future generations.
- Use Rituals - Rituals help us make meaning out of difficult life experiences. Light a Yahrzeit candle; prepare your loved one's favorite recipe; read a favorite poem, or display pictures and keepsakes. Create your own ritual. Check out http://www.Ritualwell.org for other ideas.
- Attend our Workshop - We will be co-hosting a Workshop on Grief and the High Holy Days with Rainbow Hospice on Thursday, Aug. 22 at 7 p.m. at 5150 Golf Rd., Skokie. To register, call Elizabeth Siegel Cohen at (847) 745-5404 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hopefully some of these tips will help take some of the dread out of your High Holy Days. While you may experience difficult moments, allow yourself to enjoy the sights, smells, tastes and sounds around you. We wish you well on your journey during this challenging time. Please feel free to be in touch if we can be of support to you along the way.
*Adapted from work of Lee Pollack, LCSW