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Coping Through the Holiday Funk- Danita Ogandaga, MSW

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This article is about World Class Funk: Holidays, Loss, & Intensified Feelings.

A client once told me, “Danita, if I could, I wish that I could become a bear to hibernate from Thanksgiving to New Years”. I have heard this statement so many times in my work as a grief recovery coach. The holiday season is naturally a time for persons to be of good cheer but not everyone is reeling from the turkey preparation, fall colored leaves, lines at Starbucks getting your red cups, or frequent trips down neighboring subdivisions to view holiday lights.

My therapist once told me shortly after the loss of both parents that the feelings that we carry and often have are not pasted on watch so they do not obey time and they certainly don’t obey the calendar we follow ritually. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), according to an article published by CNN affects approximately 20% of Americans and are due in part to the cold weather, lack of sunlight, to name a few followed by financial pressure for some. As much as we’d like to drag the Grinch or the person sitting in tears, the stark reality is that grief is real and it takes time. Martha Beck, who writes for O Magazine and is an amazing transformation coach in her own authority, it is important to remember that if we are going to be there for someone during their season of grief that we not try to rush them along. Healing takes time.

Just as water travels through the river, there are people that are walking the streets, working beside you at work, or pushing their cart in the grocery store with you that may find themselves in the first 48 hours of their loss whether that loss is a loved one, foreclosure or loss of house due to fire or other circumstance, prolonged illness, abandonment, rejection, or any other situation. This past week, I encountered what felt like a surge of personal emotions that all seemed to come at once:

  • My sister was rushed into emergency surgery
  • My aunt lost her husband and love of her life
  • I wrapped up a month-long course on Miscarriages and had a moment to remember my own

Although these moments dealt with a person, there are also griefs that are associated with non-persons. Whatever the grief may be, I want to encourage you that you must go through the process and in doing so, ultimately find the strength to place the memory of the things or person that you have lost in a place where you can continue to function.

Here are a few ways that you can begin to make through the days ahead:

  1. Make time to remember- Maybe it was a picture you posted on Facebook  or your favorite memory of the place you loved to attend, make the time to share those experiences with your friends and family.  It may be a simple trip to your favorite ice cream store of a long-distance trip to the island. No matter where it is, make the time to make time to remember. The engagement and the act of giving voice to the memory will provide a connection deeper than you could imagine.
  2. Open up for glimmers of joy- The feeling of guilt can cause you to believe that you are not entitled to laugh in the midst of crying as you mourn or grieve but I want to assure you that this is the best thing for you to do. Your memories can hold the joys as well as the pains associated with losing your loved one and when you remember deep down, you know that your loved one would want you to find glimmers of joy even in a painful time.
  3. Set clear expectations- It may not always be easy to set clear expectations especially when you are crying your eyes out, but it is ok to know that when you have lost someone or something, no one expects you to jump up and down and cheer. Let’s face it, you have just lost something or someone dear to you so of course you are going to cry. Death is a separation until we are reunited again. When couples and family members embrace each other after a short departure or reunion, they cry, right? So, if there is no immediate reunion in site for those things or persons that we have lost, of course there will be tears. Talking to people who are perfect strangers in a support group or grief recovery group can always assist your process.

No matter what you decide to do, maintain your peace that you are doing what is best for you. This is what we want grief to look like and in fact, it is something quite different.

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I encourage you to stay tuned for our February 2016 GriefTalk Recovery Group event that will be held online. For more information, read here.

In the days ahead, stay encouraged. For more products to assist your grief journey, please visit our store. 

Conferences & Webinairs

Seasons of Grief Part II Seminar Re-Cap: The Art of Grief in Fayetteville, Georgia

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Last night, December 5, we held the last Seasons of Grief Seminar for 2013! What an awesome time we had in Fayetteville, Georgia. One thing that I have discovered about doing this work, is that no matter what the loss category is, no loss is the same and people decide to handle their loss differently.

It is amazing to know that the common thread among humanity is the love that we hold in our hearts towards the ones we love and the power we have within us to learn how to move forward with the our loved ones in our hearts forever.

Special thanks to Mrs. Christeen Snell, the Director of the Fayette County Public Library in Fayetteville, Georgia and her awesome staff for welcoming me in with open arms and ensuring with excellence that the audio equipment and facilities were accommodating to our guests.  We certainly appreciate everything you have done.

My arms wrap ten times around the attendees at last night’s Part II Seminar called :The Art of Grief. After providing an overview of the stages and steps of grief, I lead the group through an understanding for what art therapy is and why it is used as a form of expression: spontaneous and experiential. There is no mistake in the art of expression and I was amazed at the outcome.

The evening told stories of:

  • A warm and beautiful couple who loss one of their twin baby boys
  • A woman who struggled with understanding her identity after losing her mom
  • A courageous young man who is trying to understand how to live life without his father
  • A beautiful woman who having endured her own personal struggles, is seeking to process the loss of her father and brother-in-law
  • A bold and outspoken woman silenced by the recent death of her best friend
  • A wise man who crossed the waters from Africa to America to start a new life after the loss of his father, wealthy lifestyle, and promised future.

No matter what the stories are, they are all powerful in nature and showed us the power of unconditional love. I was so honored to have been in the room and listen to the countless stories of love, pain, loss, and the hope for a brighter future after having been equipped with the protective space to voice their feelings, pain, love, and loss.

Check out the highlights:

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To respect the privacy of the attendees, this picture features a picture of a giraffe indicating the blanket that their twin son used to have with him in the NIC-Unit at the hospital before he died. What an awesome remembrance.  In addition, the red object is the sun, which is an indicator of hope. What an amazing expression.

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Two attendees chose to capture two forms of expression: written and visual. The picture on the left was done to remember her mother who recently passed. It was great to see how she cherished the memory of her mother by creating a beautiful drawing for her. The words on the right provide an awesome and powerful expression of the conversation that the participant wanted to hold with her deceased brother-in -law. She never got to say goodbye so to be given an opportunity to provide communication to express herself was amazing.

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Words to your child are powerful and this was an example of a mother’s communication with her child and establishing acceptance with his passing.

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Saying goodbye to a good friend is never easy. This participant decided to make a Christmas bell to ring in the promise for a season of healing after understanding how to process her grief.

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His father worked for a phone company and taking the time to express himself was done with the memory of his father’s memories of working where he loved. Each initial represents a state he worked in. Such as beautiful expression.

I am grateful for the opportunity to conduct the Seasons of Grief Seminar in Fayetteville, Georgia and to work with an awesome group of people. To read the highlights from our first Seasons of Grief Seminar Part I on Learning to Relax, Relate, and Release After Loss click here.