Friday, November 30, 2012

Healing for the Holidays: Part 1 – A Promise

Holidays... They’re “supposed” to make us think of words like thankful, merry, and happy. We’re “supposed” to associate holidays with a phrase like “Home for the Holidays!”

But... what if a loved one is not coming home this holiday season? What if death, divorce, or distance causes us to associate the holidays with words and feelings like depression, anxiety, and stress?

Holidays can create fresh memories of our loss and a fresh experience of pain and grief. The thought of facing another holiday season causes some people to wish they could sleep from the Wednesday before Thanksgiving until January 2. Loss is always hard, and at the holidays it can seem crushing. The thought of being in a festive mood for two months is just too much to bear when our heart is breaking.

Monday, November 26, 2012

GRIEF IN CHILDREN | Help The Kids Find Their Way

 "As great scientists have said and as all children know, it is above all by the imagination that we achieve perception, and compassion, and hope."
-- Ursula K. LeGuin 

Grief in children

So where are the kids? Probably alone in their bedrooms, crying. We have given you lots of resources here in our website to help you cope with grief... so now we turn our attention to the children. 

Have you helped them deal with the tragedy?

Kids are often the "forgotten mourners" in a household stricken by a tragic death. Why? Here are a few possible reasons: 
  1. Their needs are honestly overlooked in the emotional turmoil.
  2. Adults think that by not confronting the issue head-on, they somehow shield children from the pain (does not work).
  3. Many adults think children don't understand death, and therefore aren't affected deeply by it. They don't know how to deal with it, so they just leave the kids alone. 
  4. A little effort, sensitivity and honesty on your part will go a long way towards drawing your children out, and helping them to process their own grief in a healthy and successful way. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Surviving The Holidays | Helping Grieving Children Through the Holidays

Adults play an important role in helping children grieve, especially over the holidays when new emotions and memories can hit with full force. Children often have trouble expressing their emotions, and when they see their parents hurting, they naturally want to protect their parents, so the children may not be open about their own grief. Close family friends and even other relatives can step in and assist the parent in helping the children grieve. The following are tips that a parent or another adult can use to help grieving children through the holidays.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Building Memories at Christmas | After the Death of Your Loved One

  1. Buy a small, live tree to place in the yard after Christmas. The tree will be there for years to come and may be decorated with lights each year.
  2. Candles help bring warmth into a home at Christmastime. The light is a symbol of Jesus’ birth. Luminaries in the yard bring a sense of peace, particularly on Christmas Eve. Children can help prepare and set them out.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Coping with Loss and Grief During Seasons of Celebration

1. Prioritizing and planning:

Make a list of what you would like to accomplish, do or not do during the holidays. Sit down with your family, and allow each person to discuss what would be helpful to him or her. Each person needs to be specific with his or her preferences and desires. Allow everyone plenty of leeway as each one will be dealing with different emotions. Be creative; give yourself and your family members permission to do something out of the ordinary when it comes to family celebrations or traditions. Regarding holiday tasks and responsibilities that you usually take care of, ask yourself, “Is this something someone else can do?” (This planning activity can include friends.)

2. Accept your limitations:

Grief consumes your energy no matter what the season. Holidays place additional demands on time and emotions. Expect fluctuations in your mood and perspective. Lower your expectations to accommodate your current needs. Flexibility is the key word during this time. Your needs will change, so keep loved ones, friends and church family aware of what you’re thinking and feeling.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Am I a Co-Victim?

A co-victim is a term used synonymously with the word survivor. A co-victim is anyone who has been impacted by the death of a homicide. The term is usually used to describe immediate family, significant others and close personal friends. To an extent, teachers, co-workers, and other professionals who had dealing with the deceased may be considered co-victims.

Co-Victim Grief

The Homicide Differential: Elements Unique to the Homicide of a Loved One 
That Negatively Impact Co-victims
In order to understand the breadth and depth of homicide, it is necessary to recognize that death by homicide differs from other types of death due to a number of specific reasons and cultural attitudes toward death and spirituality influence societal perceptions of homicide. Just as there are unique physical, mental, emotional, social, and financial components to every sudden death, there are spiritual ramifications as well. Those who have never thought much about God before will often do so after a loved one has died under traumatic circumstances. Persons of faith who assume that what happens to them is God's will are forced to reshape their faith positions to incorporate the fact that bad things do indeed happen to good people (Lord 1996).

We have been conditioned throughout the ages to accept that each life is destined for the inevitability of death, which is as natural and predictable as birth. The normal repetitive circumstances of death are disease and old age. When death is due to the unnatural circumstance of homicide, it is sudden and without forewarning. It is now widely accepted that there are specific elements associated with homicidal deaths that distinguish the impact upon the surviving family members from other forms of dying. They include:

The intent to harm. One of the most distinguishing factors between homicidal death and other forms of dying is the intent of the murderer to harm the victim. Co-victims must deal with the anger, rage, and violence that has been inflicted upon someone they love.

Stigmatization. Because society sometimes places blame on murdered victims for their own death which translates into blame on the victim's family when it is believed that they should have controlled the behavior that led to the death, "co-victims of homicide often feel abandoned, ashamed, powerless, and vulnerable" (Redmond 1989).

Media and public view. Regardless of public sympathies surrounding homicidal deaths, they almost never remain private. Co-victims are quickly thrust into public view and become fair game for public consumption. While some journalists exercise consideration and objectivity in their reporting of homicidal events, the degree of intrusion into the lives of co-victims of homicide constitutes a major homicide differential.

Criminal or juvenile justice system. Unlike family members of individuals who die of natural deaths, co-victims of homicide are the most likely population of victims to be thrust into a complex system of legal players and jargon. Co-victims must quickly become acquainted with a world of crime scenes, evidence, and autopsies. Co-victims of homicide have much to learn about the investigative, prosecutorial, and judiciary branches of the criminal justice system in a very short time. They are often expected to quickly comprehend a system that may in some instances be insensitive and specifically designed to protect the rights of the accused (with little regard for the victim). In addition, co-victims may encounter many cognitive and environmental stimuli that remind them of the crime such as contact with the defendant and/or reviewing the traumatic details of the crime in the courtroom. This experience often results in the kind of avoidance behavior that leads co-victims to cancel or not show up for appointments with criminal justice system officers or victim advocates.

Bereavement. As early as 1983, E. K. Rynearson, M.D., determined that bereavement after homicide is so prevalent that it deserved clinical attention. His clinical studies involving the family members of murder victims revealed that all of his subjects had previously experienced bereavement following the natural death of a relative; and the psychological processing of homicide was accompanied by cognitive reactions that differed from previously experienced forms of bereavement. Rynearson's research forms the basis for the shift from viewing the co-victims' grief issues separate and apart from the impact of trauma associated with the death of a family member. Traumatic grief over homicidal death distinctly differs from other forms of grief.

Reprinted from 1999 National Victim Assistance Academy Text, Chapter 11: Homicide, authors: Carroll Ann Ellis and Janice Lord, editors: Grace Coleman, Mario Gaboury, Morna Murray, and Anne Seymour

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Healing Through Forgiveness

To err is human; to forgive, divine.
-Alexander Pope

Scientific research has indicated that forgiving past wrongs can be helpful for a variety of health problems, including anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and chronic pain. When we focus on forgiving, our blood pressure drops and our heart rate slows down. Our mood improves. Forgiveness can alter the state of our health.

What follows is a series of steps designed to help you forgive a past wrong. Follow each step, one at a time, and take a moment to write down your answers to each question. You need not share your answers with others. This process should be based on what feels best for you.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Handling Grief During The Holidays

By Kirsten Randall Belzer, LCSW, CHT

 Ways to Cope With Grief Individually at the Holidays
 Ways for Families to Cope With Grief Together at the Holidays
 How Social Workers Can Help Individuals and Families Handle Grief at the Holidays


The holiday season can be a particularly painful time for people after the death of a loved one or friend. The expectation that we feel joyous during the holidays can exacerbate the hurt of the loss.