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The holiday season is over. Kids are back at school, decorations are packed away (or getting there!) and eating habits are returning from holiday free-for-all to a semblance of healthfulness. For many people, it can be very anti-climactic after the excitement of the festive season. “Post-holiday slump” can feel grey and disappointing. For people who are grieving though, it might feel entirely different. January feels like the month when you can breathe again.

January is a time to breathe again
 (Photo by Pavel Lozovikov on Unsplash)

If you aren’t in mourning, you might be too busy to stop to realize that living through the holiday season is often extremely difficult for those who are in mourning—that the “most wonderful time of the year” doesn’t feel that way at all.  Someone living through a loss might be relieved to have the hubbub of the holidays finished for another year. If death has caused a hole in the fabric of your family, celebrations and family gatherings can feel like they are highlighting the fact that one of you is missing. The loss is keenly felt, even for those who have been bereaved for a long time.

Lisa, an individual who lost her mother in December several years ago finds Decembers to be tough and uses the post-holiday season to reflect and evaluate. She finds her breath by attempting to identify improvements from one year to the next. For instance, one year she found that she could think of twice she gathered enough joy to smile, whereas the year previous she hadn’t smiled at

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I don’t know what to say… A common thought after someone you know has lost a loved one. What are the right words, what should you say?

Just outside of Edmonton, AB in the town of Leduc, a workplace accident on November 15, 2018 led to the death of three workers. The tragedy was felt by many who work in similar industrial settings and many people mourned the men who lost their lives, even if they didn’t know them personally. For the families of the workers though, it is a personal tragedy. Cody Bondarchuk–the son of Daryn Bondarchuk, one of the men who died in the Leduc accident—took to Twitter to share his thoughts on the grieving process. What he shared was a touching and highly relatable thread he calls “Things They Don’t Tell You When Your Parent Dies Suddenly, a Thread”  (https://twitter.com/codybondarchuk/status/1063595402073522176). I would encourage you to read it if you feel able, but know it may stir up a lot of emotions. It is raw and moving and truthful.

Two of his points though are particularly relevant when it comes to looking for the right things to say. In an interview for Global, (https://globalnews.ca/news/4688799/leduc-workplace-death-son-grief-essay/) Karen Bartko reports Cody’s words:

“It’s just been such a strange blur,” he said. “All the clichés that people say when someone passes — I always just rolled my eyes at them, but now, I really believe them.”  

A grieving person may feel like they are in a movie or a nightmare. The shock may make

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Have you been wearing a poppy? Lots of people in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK pin a poppy over their hearts in the weeks before Remembrance Day, do you?  This tradition stems from the poem In Flanders Fields with its imagery of poppies blowing between the tombstone crosses in a World War I graveyard. What’s your reason for wearing a poppy? Maybe you want to support the work of the Legion with your donation (or donations in my case, as I usually buy and lose about four every year). Or you might have served in the armed forces or have a loved one who did, and you want to acknowledge their contributionarmed-forces-army-macro-40546, and the sacrifice of people who died in war. Poppies are a community symbol of mourning. You may not personally know a soldier who lost their life in war, but we feel moved to mark the loss with the symbol pinned to our lapels. Mourning symbols, (like arm bands and black ribbons) work in a similar way. They give us the opportunity to publicly declare our loss. “Someone I care about has died” they say, even when you don’t have the words. A poppy in November denotes something specific: Remembrance. It links you to other people wearing a poppy in a shared emotion. A mourning symbol also denotes something specific: grief. It allows others to see that you are in mourning. That the things you do, even the mundane things like grocery shopping, are tinged with grief. The mourning symbol Mourning-Pinyou wear can link you to others who have experienced grief and arouse compassion in people who encounter you in your mourning—crying in the produce aisle, or screaming in traffic,

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Are you ready for Halloween? In Canada and the US, we celebrate the occasion with costumes and candy, haunted houses and scary movies. You might be wondering what is has to do with mourning or remembrance-it’s a silly fun holiday for kids. But it isn’t celebrated in the same way everywhere. The word Halloween comes from a contraction of All Hallows’ Eve, and in many cultures the focus is on honouring people who have died. Hallows is an archaic name for saints, and the day following All Hallows’ Eve is All Saints Day. The day is reserved in some Christian denominations to remember those who have died, with church services and with special prayers of remembrance. Although it is sombre, it is a comforting time to share your grief with those who have also experienced loss. Like I said, not too much to do with pillowcases full of candy! Many countries and cultures have holidays and festivals to commemorate family and friends who have died. In the Philippines, families gather for Undas, travelling home to celebrate together. undas They visit the graves of family members to clean and repaint the tomb or mausoleum, eat together, and light candles and pray.  In Sweden, most shops and businesses are closed on All Saints’ Day, and people spend time with their families. Candles are lit and placed on gravestones of loved ones, and many churches will have services and host concerts. The Day of the Dead festivals in some parts of Mexico are probably the best known. Sugar skulls ornately decorated skeleton figurines, and bright yellow marigolds are part of the colourful celebrations, where special meals are eaten with family, graves are visited, and altars are constructed with offerings of things that were meaningful to the person

Grieving Together
Grief Diaries books

Grief Diaries is an amazing series of books which delve into the experiences of those who’ve suffered a loss. The series contains a number of book specific to various types of loss, such as Loss of a Spouse, Loss of a Child, Loss of a Parent, Loss by Suicide and many more. The books provide incredible insight to the grief journey from a first-hand perspective. A box of Kleenex is highly recommended when reading these books, as the stories are incredibly personal and touching. The books are a highly valuable bereavement tool as not only do they offer comfort and hope, but they are an all-important reminder that we do not walk this journey alone. A full list of the book titles can be found at www.griefdiaries.com. Many of the titles are also available on Amazon.com and Amazon.ca. Simply search under ‘grief diaries” and the list will come up. Julie Mjelve, co-founder of Grieving together,  has been blessed and honored to be a contributor to three of the books, Loss of a Spouse, Loss by Suicide and How to Help the Newly Bereaved. Whatever loss you have experienced in your life, all the Grief Diaries books aim to come alongside you and hold you up through your own personal journey.

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Everyone keeps telling me that time heals all wounds, but no one can tell me what I’m supposed to do right now. Right now I can’t sleep. It’s right now that I can’t eat. Right now I still hear his voice and sense his presence even though I know he’s not here. Right now all I seem to do is cry. I know all about time and wounds healing, but even if I had all the time in the world, I still don’t know what to do with all this hurt right now.”
Nina Guilbeau, Too Many Sisters
“It's easier to miss her at a cemetery, where she's never been anything but dead, than to miss her at all the places where she was alive.”
John Scalzi, Old Man's War
I realized that it was not that I didn’t want to go on without him. I did. It was just that I didn’t know why I wanted to go on.”
Kay Redfield Jamison, Nothing Was the Same
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