This is a great piece from my new friend in Vancouver, Susan Moore. Susan is doing some exciting work in bereavement and life management there. You'll find a link to her site at the end.
The Start of a New Year
For many, the New Year brings a sense of excitement; a new opportunity to create change, get in shape, stop smoking, recover from the holidays and set goals for the next 12 months. For those who have lost a loved one during the holidays, the start of the New Year can be devastating.
There is seasonality to death rates with marked increases before and after the New Year. In addition to the standard increases in seasonal flu’s, weather related accidents and overindulgence, the spike in the death rates can also be attributed to the strength of the human spirit. Hospice and palliative care workers have often witnessed terminally ill patients ‘hanging on’ through the holidays, wanting to share another holiday, not wanting to make the holidays a time of grief.
If you have lost a loved one during the holidays, you are not alone and there is support available for you. The Living Through Loss Counselling Society of BC (www.ltlc.bc.ca) is a not-for-profit organization that provides professional grief counselling to adults and children. You can contact LTLC by telephone at 604-873-5013 to get more information or to schedule an appointment. The BC Bereavement Helpline (www.bcbereavementhelpline.com) is a non-profit, free, and confidential service that connects the public to grief support services within the province of BC. The helpline can be contacted at 604-738-9950 or toll free at 1-877-779-2223.
I have had the opportunity to work very closely with LTLC and BC Bereavement during that past year and I am awed by the incredible support they provide to those in need.
If you are the primary caregiver, family or friend of someone who is dealing with a life-limiting illness, the support organizations shown above are also there to help you. Grief is something that affects us all before, during and after the death of a loved one. There isn’t a time limit for grief – starting or ending.
These support services are also there for you if you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness. This is a huge, devastating, painful experience and accessing the support services available in the community can help you understand, cope, process the huge challenges you are facing.
Self care is very important when grieving and care giving. Lynnette Pollard-Elgert, Executive Director of LTLC & I co-authored an article printed in the Vancouver Sun dealing with Grief and the Holidays. Many of the same points about self care can be applied after the holidays:
- Drink water and lots of it! Water helps to flush toxins from the body. Grief creates excess amounts of stress hormones, like Cortisol, which is associated with disease, sleep disturbances, and other physical maladies such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks and stomach disorders.
- Stay away from alcohol. This can be difficult during the holiday season. Alcohol is a depressant, spikes blood sugar, dehydrates, and is not helpful during the grieving process. It may numb the pain for a short time, however the grief process does not move forward it holds you in the same place you were before the alcohol and you feel worse the next day.
- Rest. Rest helps boost the immune system and counteracts the effects of stress on the body. Office parties, family events, and children’s holiday functions can all be exhausting. Taking time to rest is particularly important when normal sleep patterns are interrupted.
- Eat healthfully. Grief often significantly increases or decreases appetite. Holiday foods, while tempting, are usually high in sugar and fat – so enjoy these “treats” in moderation. It is important to eat a healthful, balanced diet with an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Take supplements. Talk to your doctor about adding a Vitamin B Complex and Vitamin D to your diet. Vitamin B complex helps manage stress. Vitamin D helps balance mood and counteracts the effects of low exposure to sunlight, which can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder in some people during the winter.
- Exercise. Physical activity releases serotonin in the brain, which, in turn, helps balance mood, increases energy, boost the immune system, and normalize sleep. Winter weather can put a damper on going outside for exercise. Consider physical activities that can be done indoors like yoga, swimming or aerobics.
- Self care. Take time to do the things that make you feel good. This can include getting a massage, seeing a movie, or eating at your favorite restaurant.
- Talk. Spend time with family and friends who will let you speak as much or as little as you need. Processing the loss of a loved one is exactly that – a process. Talking about what is happening for you will help you heal.
- Take time. Grief does not have a timeline – it takes as long as it takes. Spend time with people who support you and who do not expect you to ‘be over it’.
- Feel what you feel. The death of a loved one is painful. Many people feel ‘guilty’ if they laugh or have fun after someone has died. Do not judge yourself for enjoying some holiday activities.
- Ask for help. Reaching out and asking for help is not a weakness. Everyone needs support. You are not a burden. If you do not want to rely on friends and family, there are community resources that specialize in bereavement support:
Bell Alliance Transitions can provide you with the support you need to during any critical life change. We provide a free, no obligation needs assessment in the privacy of your home. Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have. We are here to help!