Holidays A Struggle When Loss Is Fresh

December 24, 2013

(Photo courtesy of Barbara Tibbets)
Barbara Tibbets used her mother's ashes for this holiday-themed collage.

The holiday season can be anything but cheerful if you are still mourning the loss of a loved one, but grief experts have advice to get you through this time of year.

First, know the anticipation of a holiday can be worse than the holiday itself, according to Carol Baldwin.

 “We have a lot of traditions; there are family gatherings, there are these ideas of domestic bliss. For people who are grieving, that idea of celebration has lost its edge,” said Baldwin, who has been a hospice nurse and teaches a class on death and dying at Arizona State University.

But it is important not to ignore your loss, she said. Talk about it, if you want to. Find new ways to keep the memory alive.

 “Take time to think about the meaning and purpose of your life,” Baldwin suggested. “The death of someone loved creates opportunities to take inventory and assess how you might make a difference in your own life, as well as someone else’s."

Barbara Tibbets has taken steps to dampen her grief this time of year. She knew this Christmas was going to be difficult. It is the first one without her mother, Betty, who died in February at age 87. She has kept an ongoing letter to her mother on the computer. Every week, she writes.

“I have 41 letters,” Tibbets said.

This year, the letters will take the place of a Christmas card. In them, Tibbets might share a photo of her grandchild or talk about the weather.The notes do not get mailed, bu they remind Tibbets of the weekly phone conversations she had with her mom before she died.

“When I am typing out this letter to her, it’s as if I am talking to her,” she said. “I can’t tell you how valuable that is.”

Tibbets is an artist, like her mother was, so this Christmas she made a holiday-themed collage using her mother’s jewelry. Tibbets also took some of her ashes and incorporated them into the artwork.

“I don’t feel I’m without her in this way,” Tibbets said. “It’s like she’s here, too.”