Barb Caffrey's Blog

Writing the Elfyverse . . . and beyond

Posts Tagged ‘holidays and grief

Holidays, Grief, and Disappointment

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Folks, as we all know, the holidays are upon us.

As I have written before (most recently last year, here), this is an awful time of year for anyone who has suffered losses. You can’t help but think about those you miss, especially when you have happy memories of better days when they were alive, well, and completely themselves.

I don’t have the answers for how to deal with this, despite having to deal with it for so long. As time passes, I know I’ll be grieving more and more people, and that’s the way life works — some of us keep going, and remember those who have passed before us, and try to honor their memories as best we’re able.

But that doesn’t make it easy.

In addition, because this is a highly-fraught time of year, any disappointment you receive at this time seems magnified. By a hundred, maybe, or even a thousand…it’s an illusion, mind, borne of the fact that you’re probably already under stress for various reasons, you’re expected to be “happy happy, joy joy” all the time at this time of year, and maybe you’re expending energy you didn’t realize you were using to stay on an even keel.

When I’m disappointed, whether it’s in someone else, myself, the world at large, whatever, I try to take a step back. Will this matter in a week? Will this matter in a month? Will this matter in a year?

If the answers to all of those questions are “no,” it’s a little easier to push past the disappointment.

“But Barb,” you say. “What is it about this time and people getting on each other’s nerves?”

Believe me, I wish I knew.

What I do know is that I try hard not to get upset by what other people do. Sometimes I observe this more in the breach than in its keeping, but I honestly do try.

OK, not everyone is going to be be what you want them to be. (Maybe no one is. Maybe you, yourself, aren’t, either.) Maybe you don’t have the life you want. Maybe nothing went right for you this year. And maybe, just maybe, you are having trouble hoping that tomorrow will be better than today.

That is normal, human, and you have to realize that other people feel the same damned thing.

So, yeah. This time of year is very hard for me. I feel almost as if I’m a chronic observer rather than completely in the mix of life and all its pleasures (and annoyances), and that’s only partly because I’m a writer and my observational skills have been heightened by years of practice.

All I can do, quite frankly, is endure the holidays. Get past them. And hope that 2017 will be a whole lot better than 2016.

Anyway, may we all treat our loved ones, friends, and co-workers gently at this time of year, and throughout the year…and may we all be richly blessed, one way or another.

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 22, 2016 at 11:32 am

Buddha’s Advice for the Grieving (An Apocryphal Story)

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Folks, it’s that time of year again. It’s the holiday season, and as I’ve written before, here and here, it’s the time of the year when grieving people feel the most alone and misunderstood.

We feel isolated, you see. And that sense of isolation gets worse when you hear all the festive music, see all the twinkling holiday lights…so many people are bustling around buying gifts, you’d think that was the only reason anyone ever had to celebrate Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, Christmas, or any other celebration save Festivus.

For some reason tonight, I was thinking about a story my late husband Michael told me about Gautama Buddha. (Michael was a Zen Buddhist.) This is in my best paraphrase, and does not come from a holy text — but I hope it will prove enlightening despite its apocryphal nature.

A distraught woman came to the Buddha and said, “I feel terrible. I grieve so much — surely there is some place on this Earth where people don’t hurt like this? Teach me, Buddha.”

And the Buddha is said to have told her, “I cannot give you this answer. But if you go around the world, ask people about grief. Then come back and let me know; I want the answer, too.”

So the woman went around the world and asked if anyone had the answers.

What she found is that everyone grieved something. Whether it was the loss of a loved one, the loss of a beloved pet, the loss of opportunities, even the loss of jobs, everyone grieved about something.

So the woman went back to the Buddha and said, “I did not find anyone who does not grieve, Buddha. Now what?”

And the Buddha gently told her, “Daughter, that is your answer.”

You see, if we all realized that we all grieve, there would be more understanding in this world. And understanding is the key to peace, if not necessarily the key to happiness itself…and it is understanding, along with the love of friends and family, that can help you when you feel lost and alone due to grief.

That does not take the grief away, mind. Nothing can.

But if you can talk about it, if you can accept it, that is the first step toward peace during this fractious, difficult, and often frustrating holiday season.

So please, do what you can to talk with your family members this holiday season, even the difficult ones who suffer from grief, anxiety, frustration, angst…try to show them kindness, love, and support.

That, to my mind, is the best gift you can possibly give during this holiday season.

Please Remember Those Who Grieve During the Holidays

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Happy holidays, folks!

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa, or as more often is the case in the United States, Christmas, I hope you are celebrating the holidays as you see fit.

But I’d like to ask for a moment of your time amidst the merriment, because I want you to please remember those who grieve during the holidays. For those who’ve lost loved ones, whether they’re beloved spouses, parents, siblings, or friends, this time of year can be brutal.

We miss our loved ones so fiercely, you see. We want to talk about them. We want to remember what they said, what they did, how they laughed, and how they enjoyed the holidays because their lives mattered. Their vital, bright spirits were here for a reason, and they loved us…but now, they’re gone.

But never forgotten.

I’m not sure why it is, but in American society, many people don’t seem to know what to say to a widow. Or to someone who’s missing her father. Mother. Brother. Cousin. Special friend.

And when those important people are left out of the conversation, those who are missing their lost loved ones feel even more bereft than before.

God/dess is love, I firmly believe. And part of that love is to be kind to those who grieve, especially at this time of the year — and most especially with people who are enduring their first major holiday without their beloved family member(s) or friend(s).

So while you enjoy the holidays — and you should — please remember those who grieve. Talk with them about their loved ones, and what you remember about them. Make a point to say to them that you care, that you haven’t forgotten, either, and that it’s important to remember the love they shared with us.

Because it helps. (Really.)

Written by Barb Caffrey

December 24, 2014 at 4:47 am