I have worked at Hospice & Community Care for over a year now and have been able to teach my co-workers some valuable lessons. They have come a long way but still have work to do. I am a keen observer of human activities, and I have learned some things along the way too. I asked them to share these ten lessons that I have observed regarding grief and the holidays.
1. Accept yourself. I’m good at being an Australian Labradoodle. How boring would it be if I spent all day trying to be something else?
Always be upfront with you who are and where you are on your grief journey and do not compare your journey to someone else’s path. Love yourself and understand the feelings that you have after a loss are normal.
2. Be flexible. Since I work at Hospice, I have to be flexible with my day. Some days we are very busy, and I have to work a lot, other days are quite, and I have time for long naps. I never know what my day might hold, and I always want to leave room for adventure.
Grief may leave you already feeling stressed, so don’t overextend yourself. Regardless of how much you plan for the holidays, the unexpected will happen. Leaving room for the unexpected may help lessen the feelings of panic, fear, sadness, and anxiety that can show up at unexpected times.
3. Go for walks – Going on walks is one of my favorite things to do. I love how I get energized after walking around my neighborhood.
Walks can be a time of physical and emotional renewal. When you are feeling overwhelmed step outside, even if it is just for a walk around the block. The fresh air often helps reduce anxiety and renews your energy.
4. Know the value of a nap – I am an expert napper. I can sleep almost anywhere and believe that a good nap can renew your energy and reduce anxiety.
Be kind to yourself and get plenty of rest. The experience of grief, coupled with the holidays may cause physical as well as emotional and mental fatigue.
5. Take time to enjoy the sights, sounds, and smells around you – The world is full of glorious sights, sounds, and smells. I spend a great deal of time in the office pursuing the smells during lunch time. When I go outside, I love all the places to explore when if I just visited them an hour before.
The holidays are a beautiful time of year, but they can also be very stressful. Remember to take moments to enjoy your surroundings and the simple sights, sounds, and smells around you. Breathe in the crisp air, listen to the holiday music, and smell the fresh baked goods.
6. Trust your instincts – I have keen instincts and just know when someone needs me around. I can also sense danger like a rogue plastic bag or invading squirrel.
After a loss holiday traditions may be different. Consider now which traditions you would like to continue and what you might like to begin. Pursue activities that nourish and comfort you and give yourself permission to opt out of events and activities you would rather skip. It is ok to say “No.”
7. We should respect someone else’s territory – Some days I want to play, and others I need my space. Sometimes my coworkers don’t want to chase toys with me, and that is ok, I’ve learned to let them do their work.
After the loss of a loved one, some people may need more space than others. Allow everyone to have their space when they need it and remember it is ok to remove yourself from activities for awhile too. Avoid isolation, but be sure to recognize the need to have time for yourself.
8. Sometimes you have to speak up to get what you want – Over the past year at Hospice, I have learned to be a really good communicator. I don’t feel guilty for expressing my needs.It’s amazing how a little bark or my sweet eyes can tell my coworkers what I am feeling or what I need.
Learning how to speak up for your needs is important. Make sure that you communicate what you need, especially during the holidays. Discuss your wishes with your family or a caring, trusted friend. Talking about these wishes will help you clarify what it is you want to do during the holidays.
9. Appreciate the small things – Sticks, toys, belly rubs, and treats … these are a few of my favorite things. Some people say I have an amazing ability for love and enthusiasm for everything; I just think it’s important to embrace all my experiences and be grateful for treats.
Grief may give you an extraordinary ability to enjoy simple things. Embrace this, especially during the holidays. Take time to incorporate simple joys into your day. Each day look for small things for which you are grateful. Out of that gratitude, you may be inspired to do something for someone else.
10. Live in the moment – I rarely think about what is going to happen next, I just live in the moment. If I am playing with a toy or sitting beside a Hospice patient that is the most important thing for the moment.
Don’t look ahead or dread what is to come next simply enjoy where you are and know that you will continue to move forward at your own pace. Be patient with yourself and allow yourself to be surrounded by loving, caring people. You may even find that sticking your head out the car window feels awesome!
Love and Kisses,