BW 009: Surviving the Holidays While Grieving - a Panel Discussion

panel Dec 05, 2022
 

Watch the video here or on YouTube; listen anywhere podcasts are played (Apple, Spotify, Google…)

The Transcript is below.


The holidays can be a brutal time for people who are grieving.  Even songs like “All I Want for Christmas is You” and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” feel different when you’re missing your person.

 

Today, our panel of guests discuss tips for surviving the holidays, ways to honor your loved one during the holidays, and alternative ideas for skipping them altogether.  

 

You’ll also hear our take on whether grief gets easier or harder (or something else) after year one.

 

Our speakers (Bio’s below):

Suzanne Elvidge

https://www.thewidowshandbook.com/

Twitter: @HandbookWidows

 

Dr. Clark Roush

Twitter: @DrClarkRoush

 

Keri and Brittany Young - GriefBox

https://grief-box.com/

Instagram: @shopgriefbox

TikTok: @griefbox

 

Tips for surviving the holidays:

  • Lean into the pain
  • Keep them alive
  • Light a candle and tell stories/memories
  • Find a purpose in the pain
  • Pain is a non-negotiable
  • Change the tradition
  • Announce your holiday intentions early and clearly
  • Treat yourself to something or make a donation
  • Give yourself grace

 

Ways to honor your loved one during the holidays:

  • Hang their stocking
  • Listen to a playlist of their favorite songs
  • Eat their favorite foods
  • GriefBox place setting - a way to keep your loved one at the table 
  • Write memories in or on Christmas ornaments
  • Table runner or tablecloth with pictures 
  • Scavenger hunt to find memories hidden around the house

 

Holiday alternative ideas:

  • If you want to ignore Christmas completely, you can!
  • Watch your favorite movies
  • Binge on box sets
  • Switch off the radio, tv, and social media
  • Go for a walk
  • Do what speaks to you

 

Tips for going out:

  • Take something of theirs with you
  • Have an anchor or touchstone 
  • Arrive early so you’re not walking into a room full of people
  • Scope out the place and find your path to escape if you need a few minutes to yourself

 

Notable quotes:

 

Suzanne Elvidge-

“So you're grieving who you were together, you're grieving who you are now and you're grieving what you would've done together.”

 

“I'm not the me I was before and I'm happy with who I am.”

 

“You're allowed to say no to stuff. You're allowed to say yes to stuff and change your mind later. You're allowed to say no to stuff and then go, actually, can I, would you mind if I can…”

 

Dr. Clark Roush-

“Our journey is different… it is not a competition.”

 

“Tears know who they can trust.”

 

Keri - GriefBox

“...we just wanted him there at the table and he was.”

 

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Guest Bio’s

 

Suzanne Elvidge

I'm a freelance medical writer, and I also write fiction and the blog The Widow's Handbook. Tim died suddenly in February 2018 from type 2 diabetes complications. 





Dr. Clark Roush

Dr. Clark Roush is in his 37th year as conductor of University Singers. He is the endowed chair for the performing arts and chairs the Music Department at York University. He is frequently contracted as a guest conductor and is slated to conduct in Carnegie Hall in March of 2024.

 

He was married to Sue, a.k.a "The Queen", for 38+ years. She died in January 2020 from pancreatic cancer. They have two sons, both of whom are married, and the youngest has given me two granddaughters, so my proudest claim to fame now is "Papa." I will always be 'minus one' and continue learning to thrive as a single man. I creatively wrote my way through the first 2 years of my grief journey and am currently trying to get them published for whatever benefit they might hold for others. 



Keri and Brittany Young - GriefBox

We’re Keri and Brittany, a mother-daughter team dedicated to helping others through their grieving process. When we lost Jacob, our beloved son, and brother, in a tragic motorcycle accident at the age of 22, we found ourselves face-to-face with the ugly reality of grief. We know firsthand how difficult and lonely the grieving process can be. We also know how hard it is for our close friends and family to know what to do or say in an attempt to comfort us. That’s why we created GriefBox care packages. 

 

As the holidays approach, we’re nervous about celebrating our first Thanksgiving without Jacob. This year, we handmade a place setting for Jacob, to honor his memory. We believe that although he may be physically gone, he still deserves a place at the table. 

 

We made a few extra place settings for families with an empty seat at their holiday celebrations this year. They can be found online on our website https://grief-box.com/ and GriefBox Etsy store: https://www.etsy.com/shop/GriefBox?ref=simple-shop-header-name&listing_id=1318296244.

 




The Brave Widow Community is a place where you can connect with other widows, find hope and healing, and begin to dream again for the future.  Learn more at bravewidow.com.  

 


 Hey guys, I’m Emily Jones

 

I was widowed at age 37, one month shy of our 20 year wedding anniversary.  Nathan and I have four beautiful children together.  My world was turned completely upside down when I lost him.  With faith, community, and wisdom from others, I’ve been able to find hope, joy, and dream again for the future.  I want to help others do the same, too!

 

FOLLOW me on SOCIAL:

Twitter @brave_widow

Instagram @brave_widow

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/bravewidow

YouTube @bravewidow


Transcript

Podcast Panel: Surviving the Holidays
===

[00:00:00] Emily: All right everyone, hi. This is Emily. I am so excited that you decided to join us today on this panel discussion of surviving the holidays. And we, this discussion is not rehearsed. We haven't exchanged a lot of notes. It's gonna be an adventure to see where we go on this, discussion journey. There are two main things that we really would like for you to walk away with.

Number one would be some ideas and ways that you can survive the holidays personally when you're grieving and a loved one. And then the second one would be idea ideas for ways that you can honor your loved one during the holiday. So with that, I'm gonna let each of our speakers spend one to two minutes introducing themselves, sharing some of their background and what they do and where you can find more about them.

So, Dr. Roush, how about I start with you?

[00:00:56] Dr. Clark: Okay. I'm Dr. Clark Roush and I'm the endowed chair for the Performing Arts at York University in York, Nebraska, United States of America. And I, I, I keep what presence I can on Twitter and Facebook and, and Instagram and you, you can find me there. And I try to use Instagram mainly just for inspirational things.

But I respond a lot to, to other grieving people on Twitter. That, that's just my favorite platform because it's really hard to ran. And the amount of characters that you get. And, and so I just prefer that one. And January 27th, 2020 at 3:30 PM , I lost the queen, my wife Sue, to a battle with pancreatic cancer.

And so I am in the process of learning to fashion a new life around that loss because you don't get over it or through it or past it or anything. You just hopefully learn how to carry it.

[00:02:04] Emily: Yeah. Well said. Thank you so much for that. , Suzanne.

[00:02:09] Suzanne: Hi, I'm Suzanne Elvidge and I'm based in the Peak District in the UK, so about halfway up level with Sheffield and Manchester.

My husband died suddenly and unexpectedly from complications of Type two diabetes in February, 2018, so it's gonna be coming up to five years after Christmas. I created the Widows Handbook, just over a year ago to provide... guideline is too strong a word, but to provide backup for people who are grieving because when you're bereaved young, you've not necessarily been through that many bereavements and you don't know, you dunno how it works.

You don't know. I'm the first of my group of friends to have a partner die. And so the Widow's Handbook is there to provide a resource for, for people who are going through what I went through. You can find me on Facebook at the Widows Handbook. I'm on Twitter at at at Handbook Widows. Sorry, I don't write that down very often.

And the widows handbook is online as well if you just search for it. And it's bits of my story and bits of how you can cope from day to day. .

[00:03:38] Emily: Yeah. That's awesome. I think one of the things I love about watching you on Twitter as well is you'll say, I have a post on that, or I have some thoughts on that, and just link an article right in there.

So having that handbook concept is really great. Alright. Keri and Brittany with the Grief Box team.

[00:03:54] Brittany and Keri: Okay. Hey, so I'm Brittany and this is my mom. Keri. Hi and we're joining you from San Diego, California. and we started our grief journey when we lost Jacob. He's my little brother and her son in a motorcycle accident on May 1st of this year.

So this is actually our first holiday season that we are grieving and we are new to it. So we're looking forward to, you know, hearing from how y'all have gone through the holidays. We decided to turn our pain into art.

We create care packages for other people who are grieving. Our company is called Grief Box, and you can find us online at grief-box.com or on Instagram at Shop Grief Box.

[00:04:40] Emily: Awesome. And I will definitely put the links to everything you all shared in the show notes. So if you're listening and you're driving or mowing your lawn or whatever it is that you're doing, you'll have links to all of that. And I really just wanna give some kudos to all the participants on today's panel.

Each of these folks, they're givers, they're encouragers, they're people who wanna. Other people who are hurting. And I just think it's so incredible to be able to meet other people who wanna be able to give back and just, just help those that are hurting in life and who are, are going through some of the same things that they went through.

So just appreciate everybody doing that and participating today. Well, and Brittany, side note, my southern heart just smiled when you said the word y'all. I don't get to hear that very often, . Try not to say it too often.

But I just appreciate you being open and authentic and I, I know you were dreading your first Thanksgiving, so I'm curious to hear, you know, how that went and how you all incorporated him into that celebration.

But maybe we just start with the topic of just what insights or suggestions we would have for people that are just really dreading the holidays. So we just had Thanksgiving here in the US. We are going into Christmas and New Year's and those typical, I know there's many other holidays that get celebrated in that same timeframe, but as people think about those special events where they've had oftentimes years and years and years with that individual present, and they're no longer there.

What, what would you tell someone who's this is their first time going through that, or maybe just their second time? What are some of your thoughts on how people can navigate that?

[00:06:29] Dr. Clark: I think one of the most important things. Is to absolutely, positively lean in to all of the pain and how much it sucks. I, I, I just think that, that, that's a part of better mental health. There's no way you can put a spin on the first that happens and in that, in that whole first year you know, for me it was even, you know, she died in January, but so I.

had like 10 months, but I'd already had our first anniversary, you know, and, and man, I was a wreck, I was a holy wreck that first Thanksgiving. And that just made the people that love me say, you know, dad, maybe you. Maybe your dose of sertraline isn't high enough. , you know, and, and, things like that. And, and, and so one of the things that we've always done in our family is, you know, what other ways, we keep them alive.

And, and so we, we talked about them and I personally believe. In, in a way I can't describe in whatever liminal space exists, I, I think she's still helping me become everything that she always knew that I could be. I, I just can't tell you all of those ways or describe, or, or define them. But one of the things that I've, I've very purposely done is I have a Sue candle in my living room and.

Now six year old granddaughter she, she couldn't do GR's early in her speaking life. And so we became Ammy and Papa cuz she couldn't say Grammy. And, and so this Thanksgiving in particular was the first time both sons and their wives and kids were all back in the nest here since she died. And so I actually had the six year.

Helped me light the Sue and Ammy candle and let her tell some stories, you know, that she remembered about, about Sue. Because when Sue was diagnosed my six year old was two and she wanted at least another year of life. So the oldest, the, at that time, the only granddaughter would possibly have more memories of.

And she battled and, and she pulled that off. But you know, we still have, we still have her pictures and we still, you know, talk about her. And so I think that combination of, of being, it, it, it's okay, you know, to talk about these kinds of things, but it's also okay to just lean into the unbelievable hurt and pain that happens because, Coming up on three years and, and I don't know if our, our screen friend here today feels us coming up on five, but in time when you're new, you really don't want to hear this.

Just like I didn't, but, but in time and maybe the grief box thing is help, but if we can do anything that adds purpose to the pain because the pain is non-negotiable. It's gonna happen. And that's why I think we need to lean into it. Let the grief tsunamis do what they do, and maybe they'll pass a little bit faster.

What can we learn from them? But then how can we be honest about our feelings? And then how can we, learn to try to remember our, our people and eventually the happier memories instead of, and, and remembering what we had in time, more than just what we've lost.

[00:10:17] Emily: Oh yeah. I think that's so great. And I remember even that first week or two of losing my husband, Nathan, I thought, if nothing good comes out of this, or there's no purpose to me being able to help someone else, that would just feel like such a waste for me to have gone through all of that and what would be to come and not have a way of giving back or, or being able to help someone else go through that. Suzanne, did you wanna add some of your thoughts too?

[00:10:46] Suzanne: Yeah, and I was, one of the things that I did is I actually made a tradition of not having a tradition. I mixed up Christmas totally. So the first year I spent just very, very quietly spent the afternoon with a couple friends in my village who were friends of Tim's as well. And it was just very quiet, very low-key.

I could arrive when I wanted to. I could leave when I wanted to. The next year I took myself up to a off to a Shepherd's hut in the lake district in a very rural area. And it was just me, a pile of books on my Kindle, some wood for the wood burner food, some drinks. And just had a really, really chilled out Christmas.

The next year I was supposed to be going away to a yurt, but we had lockdown and so that didn't work, but I just decided to mix things up, turn things around and just create a whole bunch of new memories cuz I had all the old memories and you can't recreate, or I didn't feel that I wanted to recreate those.

I just wanted to build something completely new.

[00:12:01] Emily: Mm mm-hmm. . Oh, that's a great perspective. And one of the questions I hear a lot, and I'm sure there's people that are gonna be watching that have the same question, is, you know, people say the first year's the hardest, like the first round of events, and some people say the second year's the hardest, but do you have any thoughts on that?

Like, does it get easier with time? Was one year harder for you than another year? Or what are your thoughts?

[00:12:28] Dr. Clark: I, my therapist thankfully warned me, and I'm not trying to butt into anybody's life, but like I did not have the skill set and this Enneagram three Wing four, I was so cute. I'm like, if I'm gonna knock out this therapy in like four or five or six months, and, you know, in 26 months later, you know, I, I feel like I'm beginning to learn to thrive as, as a single man.

She warned me that sometimes year two is harder because in year one I don't, I don't know what y'all family situation was like. My wife for 38 years was our accountant and bookkeeper.

I didn't, she just let me live in la la land and read books and rehearse and conduct and inspire and motivate and all that kinda, I did not know what anything cost. And so the learning curve of doing what many had adults already had done, which is learning how to run my own financial life and what all that means, see that's, that's all the first year and getting in your groove.

And then what that does for some people is it gives the brain extra space to just really hurt the second year. And, and I'm glad, I'm glad she warned me of that. You know, the first, the first Christmas, I wasn't gonna do anything because the January before, like two weeks before she died, she said, honey, go out and see if you can find a cheap tree somewhere.

We need a new tree for next year. I don't know what a cheap tree is on. I don't know what they call, well, okay, call me when you get out there. And you know, so I bought one brrr downstairs in the basement and so and so my kids were like, dad, you're not gonna, are you gonna put a tree up? And I was like, I don't know.

And so my youngest son, bless him, he said, well, I would. If you're not gonna put up the tree, can we have the family ornaments? Because I would like to tell my daughter the stories that mom always used to tell us when we hung them. And so I decided, okay, get, get over yourself. You know, put up the tree. It's not just about you, you know, it's about more they've all lost, you know?

And, and so I did, and I'm telling you, I completely broke down and I lost it when I pulled that tree out because it was supposed to be our first tree, not mine. And, and. So you, I I, I think in the second year, even though some of it was harder, I, I did begin to feel more smiles in my memories than, than, yeah.

you know, you know, kind of stuff. And, and I, I, I will say just for, for anybody who's listening, I, I know I'm, I'm, I'm a choir director and, and I've lived my whole life in, in the creative world, and that's how I deal with everything. And so all of a sudden I found, Writing and I wrote over 60, what I call creative grief writings, trying to capture all the moods and phases of my grief journey.

And I think I'm now up to three therapists who have said, you have got to get those things published. And so I'm, I'm working on that in some way, shape or form, but I think that, I didn't set out to get them published. I, I was just trying to make sense of Clark. And what he was going through and whatever your creative venue is, or if, if it isn't, you don't think you have one you do, you may just not have used those creativity muscles in a while.

I would encourage you to pour, pour something of your grief in into that. What can you make? What can you do? There is something you can do besides just let it all happen to you.

[00:16:33] Emily: Yeah, those are definitely, that's a lot of good pointers in there, and I can't remember if it's left brain or right brain, whatever side of your brain is connected with creativity, is also connected with emotions, and that's why people tend to do, like craft groups or writing groups or, you know, coloring for therapy.

That just anything that's creative and has that outlet that helps you process some of those emotions and feelings that you don't normally would think about are necessarily associated with that. Suzanne, did you feel like future years got any easier for you or has it been about the same or what does that look like?

[00:17:11] Suzanne: I've written an article about this. The, it's different. I'd say it's different rather than it's easier or harder. The, the first year it's fresh, it's raw. The second year you're in less shock, so things feel different. But as Clark said, some of the smiles do come back. So yeah, I'd say that the balance is different.

How it feels is different. And also, as I always say, everybody's grief is different as well. Yes. So different people are different in different years. Overall things do get better and they get different. Because one of the, one of the things I was told about grief very early on is you lose your past, your present and your future.

So your grieving who you were together, you're grieving who you are now and you're grieving what you would've done together. And. That was Christmases and holidays and things like that. And so I'm now a new me and I'm now a very different me. I'm not the me I was before and I'm happy with who I am.

Yes, that's sometimes you think, yeah, that's not who I was going to be. But you create, you create a new you.

[00:18:39] Emily: I think that's a beautiful way of putting it. And I hate telling people, oh, the second year will be worse, or a future year is going to be worse because in that first year, you think I feel like I wanna die.

Like how could it possibly be any worse than this? So I do try to tell people, even though I'm still, in my second year that it, it, for me, it was more crisis management the first year and just like following the motions. And the second year is more, oh, this isn't a nightmare, this is, it's just real now.

And so you're trying to rebuild what your new normal looks like. And like you mentioned, getting comfortable with who do I wanna be? Do I still have the same goals, the same hobbies, the same dreams? , Especially if it's a spouse, there's so much of your identity tied up in that person and who you are together.

Mm-hmm. that, that changes some of those things. Some of the tips that I try to give for people of surviving the holidays is, First of all to just give yourself grace. And a lot of times that may mean setting boundaries or minimizing expectations. My husband, he would always do the turkey. He would do the sides for a lot of our family get togethers.

I mean, he was just this big personality. He just lit up the room. He handled so much of hosting and entertaining and all that, and I lost him July of 21 and. Thinking about Thanksgiving, I just, it all seemed so overwhelming, so I just had to tell my family, sorry, you'll, you'll have to find some place else to go to have Thanksgiving and I won't even be there just because I didn't feel like I could go through that and anybody would have any sort of, good time or experience.

Now we still did something as a family and we did something even I hosted a little bit more for Christmas, but I think sometimes you have to give yourself that grace of and be patient with yourself like you in those first few months and you're, you need time to heal and you don't wanna pile on everyone else's expectations of what you should do or shouldn't do, or how you need to help someone else when.

You really need to take care and, and focus on yourself.

[00:20:55] Suzanne: I'd also say announce your intentions early. So, I told my family Tim died in February and I told my family quite early on that I wanted to be on my own for Christmas. And that kind of stopped people asking me, cause otherwise you get, I've got a big family and you get all those lovely invitations and people mean really well.

But I didn't want to be an add-on to anybody else's Christmas and I didn't want to have to say no to them. So I, we've got a family WhatsApp group and I just put it in really early. This is what I'm doing. Not, I'm thinking doing this or I might be doing this, but this is what I'm doing. So it brought no discussions.

It was that and but also you're allowed to change your mind. You're allowed to say no to stuff. You're allowed to say yes to stuff and change your mind later. You're allowed to say no to stuff and then go, actually, can I, would you mind if I can, so, and I think that ties in with what you said, Emily, about giving yourself.

You give yourself permission to do what you want to do. You can be as, I'm not gonna swear, I'm sorry, I'm very swear-y. You can be as selfish if you want to call it selfish. You can be as selfish as you like, but say, this is what I want to do. This is what I am going to do because you are allowed to.

[00:22:28] Emily: Yeah. Yeah, I think that's an excellent point, and I think you have to try to do it as much as you can without feeling guilty that you're letting other people down or, you know, I, there are so many people who wanna help us and we don't let them.

At the same time, there are people who be very understanding if we state our intentions and make it clear of what we want and what we think we need at that time.

Brittany and Keri, how was your first Thanksgiving? Did you keep things small? Did you do anything different that you mind to share with, with our audience?

[00:23:04] Brittany and Keri: So we had our immediate family, which is my husband, myself, Brittany, her younger brother, Caleb, who's married and has a little boy.

So they were all there. And then my youngest son, Isaac, who's 11, and then my, we went to my mother-in-law's house, so it was just, oh, and then your friend? Mm-hmm. , Natalie. So she was friends with Jacob as well. Who was the one, our son that died, my son that died. So it was just the nine of us, so it was pretty small.

And we made, we wanted Jacob to be with us at the table and that's why we designed these wreaths that we would put on a plate with a candle in the middle that we would light during our meal and then had a eternity ring photo frame. That I designed that has a little clip at the top and you can put a picture in the front facing the plate and one facing the back so other people around the table could see a picture of your loved one.

And we had one, my mother-in-law bought one , so she had her husband, my father-in-law, in her eternity frame. And then we had Jacob in ours. So we. That just allowed us to say, Hey, we want you to talk about Oppa, who's the my father-in-law and Jacob that they're here with us. And it was very nice.

We shared stories some stories that you can imagine. A 22 year old boy has some stories that maybe mom doesn't wanna hear , but yeah, we shared stories. I, I love hearing the stories, even if. Hard to hear. But yes, we just wanted him there at the table and he was.

[00:24:53] Emily: That's great. That's such a beautiful way to include, your loved one as part of the conversation.

I think, like Dr. Roush said, you have to lean into it, so you don't want to make. The holidays or the dinners, something works the elephant in the room, right? Like, we don't wanna bring that person up, we don't wanna talk about it. It's gonna make, it's gonna make their person sad. It's just gonna bring down the whole holiday.

Like, just embrace it and talk about them like they're still here. Or share some memories and stories of things that they did. And I think, what you've put together with the, the place setting is a great way to say we're all acknowledging that person would be here with us today if they could, and we're gonna include them as part of this.

But it doesn't have to be. And maybe the first few times it is, but after a certain time, it doesn't always have to be a somber, sad affair. Right? It can just be a nice tribute to who they were and who they were in your life and still be part. The family and, and things that you all do. So I think that's a really great idea.

I know some people will reserve specifically a chair for their loved one, you know, during the holiday, or people might actually do something specifically to recognize, that person while they're there.

So thank you for sharing that with us. I'm sure that was not easy, but it will, I think, become less painful over time, the more that you continue to have those events.

So I think that's a good segue into talking about what are some ways that we can honor or remember our loved ones during the holidays. So Dr. Roush or Suzanne, anything else that you, you all would like to add on things that you've done in the past?

[00:26:41] Suzanne: I treat myself to something. I buy myself a present or I make a donation to a charity or something like that. And I don't necessarily say, oh, this is my present from Tim. But that's the kind of intention that there's a, something as something special.

[00:27:01] Dr. Clark: My, you know, everybody's everybody's grief journal.

Our, our journey is different. And for anybody that's going to hear this in, in, in, in the future. I, I just really wanna sincerely communicate. It is not a competition. If, if you're going through this, it sucks to be you, but it's not a competition to where I'm ever gonna turn around to my boys and say something like, well, I'm sorry you lost your mom, but you didn't lose your wife.

It's horrible for everybody that's dealing with it. And, and so we deal with it in the ways that we can. And my oldest son is the executive chef, the country club here in town. And any time there is a special occasion, the whole family is not together. Then I take the last picture that was taken of the two of us.

During the Thanksgiving before she died and I take it to the country club and I text my son ahead of time and I said, I'm having dinner with Mom tonight. And I want a reservation, so be sure they set a different, I want everything I want, I want the plate, I want the glass, I want the cloth napkin, I want a complete other plate setting.

And then I, I place that picture in the chair so that she can have, so, so that we can have a date like we used to have and go out like we used to. . And I remember the first time I did that he came home at the, at the end of the shift. He was living with me at the time and since he's married , and, and off on his own.

But he said, well, dad, he said I'm always glad to see you, but I had to bring your food to you tonight because none of the servers could stop crying. And you know, that was not my intent. But also, you know, there's a point in especially survival mode. Where you're really being like, oh, okay. I'm laying my head on my pillow tonight and I'm still alive, so this is like a victory, you know, and kind of stuff.

And I, I just couldn't afford to care. If other people thought I wasn't trying to be romantic or sense, I was just trying to survive and spend some time with the love of my life, and that's the only way I could do it. And, and so that, that day even she used to have a seance of something in the jacuzzi tub.

I mean, that music would be going and the candles would be going, and she'd be in there for like, I don't even, not, I don't know how her skin wasn't wrinkled for life, you know? So what did I do? I went and I did that. And before her first anniversary we kind of had one of these for like our intimate circle, and I made a Spotify playlist, like three and a half hours of music that Sue loved.

And I listened to that all day and I cried and I took a bath. Which I generally don't, cuz it's like sitting in your own dirt, you know? But and, and then I went out and had the fancy meal and she was with me and, and I, I, I just literally felt like I have to do this and I'm not doing it to try to be anything to anybody else.

I, I, this is just what I have to do. And I think people, that's part to me of what you said about giving yourself grace because this thing called grief brain. It's like, wow, you know, you walk into a room and then you stop. And I'm like, why did I come in here?

And oh my gosh, at least if you're married and you're listening to this, between covid and my wife being an extrovert, my, my address book has completely changed. Because I'm an introvert and, and she was my socializer honey. We got party and I just brag, could find somebody to ask a question to and wind up in the corner for half an hour talking, you know, and that kind of stuff.

Well, my address book has totally changed between covid and between her death, and I'm not frustrated or angry at anybody because we're all dealing with loss in our lives, in, in, in various forms and the various ways we can't. I just want some people to be able to expect some of those things because they were surprises for me.

And, and, and maybe if you're just, if you've heard from other, if you start experiencing that you're not alone. The these things are, are real things that can happen. And if I said nothing else of of value to you, your grief is your. I, I doubt you can do it the wrong way.

[00:32:12] Emily: Yeah. I think that is something that's a big surprise to people is how much your social, social circle changes.

Especially if that was something you did a lot with, with your loved one and the person that you lost. So, people,

[00:32:25] Dr. Clark: I mean, outta the question, yeah. I mean, now I'm the third wheel or on. You know, creep or old guy or whatever, you know, but you know, every, everything just completely changed.

[00:32:37] Emily: Yeah. Yeah. And I think it's hard because you have this thought.

Maybe in subconsciously of who are the people in my life that I know they're gonna be there for me, they're gonna show up, you know, after the first few weeks or months they're still gonna be there, and maybe they aren't the way you thought they would, but then you might have another small group of friends or family that you didn't really think that they would be for there for you as much as they actually were.

That's been very common with a lot of people that I've spoken to and. It is surprising, but it's nice to know that there are people out there that, that care about you and you can now make your social circle what you want it to be. Whether you wanna go out and do much or you wanna, you wanna stay at home.

[00:33:22] Dr. Clark: I, I called those people my avenger squad .

[00:33:27] Emily: That's great. I'm a hardcore introvert and I hated networking, but I quickly realized how small my circle was outside of my sphere of work. And so I've really had to put myself out there and I have actually enjoyed getting to know people that have similar interests or things that they're trying to pursue, to o.

[00:33:48] Brittany and Keri: So I would like to add something about a meal preparation. So we have a friend that's also a chef, and Jacob's birthday was in September and he asked, well, what's Jacob's favorite food? And so we told him the three items that was really his love. And the chef made an appetizer of those foods in a special way.

It was the most amazing thing I've ever experienced.

[00:34:19] Emily: Wow,

[00:34:20] Dr. Clark: What a blessing.

[00:34:20] Suzanne: Yeah. That's such a lovely idea. Yeah,

[00:34:24] Emily: It really is. So a few ideas that I also jotted down for people. If, if you're listening and you're looking for some ideas, some of these I, I haven't done, but I thought were really creative.

One thing I have done is last year for Christmas, I hung Nathan's stocking up like normal. Like there was this weird, do we put it up? Do we not put it up? Does it go on the side? What do we do with it? But I did put it up and I still bought some of his favorite treats and little things that I knew he would like.

And so it was a nice way of kind of keeping him there as part of the family, and then also on Christmas Day, I got to enjoy as a bonus some of the his favorite things that he liked and that he enjoyed. So similar to, you know, listening to their favorite playlist or eating some of their favorite foods.

Just anything you can do to enjoy some of their favorite things. Just quickly, a few other ideas that people have had are, taking some Christmas ornaments and maybe writing memories on them or getting some that you can open and putting memories in them to hang them on the tree. Some people have created a like table runner or a tablecloth with pictures of their family or favorite person and had that printed and put out on the table.

I thought that was a cute idea. . And some people have had like a scavenger hunt when they have family over or kids over and they hide memories all around the house and have the kids go hunt them down and then just read them when they're all together. And lastly some people have created a memorial like website or Facebook page, and they ask people to go on there and share some of their favorite memory.

About their person and then reflect on that during the holidays. So those are a few extra ideas for people out there. If you're, you're really trying to come up with something.

[00:36:13] Suzanne: I want something really controversial here that if you want to, you can ignore Christmas completely. If you want to, you can shut your door from, and we have Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, boxing Day in the UK are our holidays. But if you want to, you can shut the door. You can watch your favorite movies. You can binge on box sets. You can switch the radio on the television off so you don't hear any Christmas music. You can switch social media off. You can go for a walk in the hills.

You really don't have to do it if you don't want to. Mm-hmm. , You do you. It's, there's no, there's no written law that you have to have Christmas.

[00:37:02] Emily: Yeah, that reminds me, have you seen that movie or, or read that book by John Grisham on the skipping Christmas? Essentially, him and his wife decide to go on a cruise for Christmas, and it's kind of a.

A bit of a comedy. It's got Tim Allen in it, so take that for what it's worth. But a lot of people do practice that same concept of, you know, I'm gonna go travel for the holidays, or I'm gonna do something just completely out of the norm and I echo what you say. That is perfectly fine to do that. Do what speaks to you and what is gonna make it the easiest for you to, as you move forward in your journey.

[00:37:36] Dr. Clark: Just another option for people, just because it speaks to me. You know, concerts are still a big event in my life, and so, my in the little like jewelry bag that houses the cuff links for my tux. I have my wedding band and I always slip that down into my pocket when I go conduct.

Because she was always my biggest fan and cheerleader. And, you know, I'd pull into the garage and there would be the smell of a meal and, and all of that. And, all the little things that change is I'm done with my tux. And back when I had hair, she'd always she'd, she'd always, I'd be on my way out and she'd be like, stop, stop, stop, stop, stop sweetheart.

And I would, and so, Get a comb and you know, she'd fix the back and she'd check the bow and be sure everything was just right. And when everything was, then she'd grabbed me by the shoulders and she'd say, you're gonna be so good. And I, I don't have those things anymore, but I can feel like she's with me in those moments by slipping the wedding ring down in my pant pocket, and, and then often what I'll do after a big occasion or an event, or I think we all have grown to understand, you know, what a calendar date is.

You know, and I, I, I just call it a deathiversary because I'm, you know, you know, why not, you know? But whenever those, those things happen in addition to, to lighting the Sue candle, Then I kept my very favorite T-shirt she ever wore. I, I just loved her in it. And, and to me, when, when I see that shirt, I, I think casual, sue, relaxed and at home and all that, and I have that and I literally take that shirt out of the closet in the study.

I'm now sitting. And I take it into the living room, and I put it on my chest and I wrap my arms around it, and I talk to her while the candles lit, and just say, thank, thank you. I, I, weren't you grinning at the family being all together today? And, and, and didn't you love it when, when the six year old came up to me and said, Papa, You know, I'm wearing red today because that was Ammy's favorite color, right?

Aww. And so I, that just, it's, it's okay to do that. And I just want people to know stuff like that because that may be just a very, that may be a Clarkism is, but I promise you, before I started therapy, I thought that kind of stuff was like weird voodoo, like, what's wrong with these people, you know, that do stuff like this?

And, and now that's an, it's an anchor. It's literally an anchor in my life and it's, it's a touchstone to a way I feel like I can still be with. And, and that means the world to me. Cuz I don't know what the rest of my life is gonna be like. But for, for now, I've had the greatest 38 plus year love story anybody could have.

I am not looking, I don't think I will ever look. But man. Just because she's not with me doesn't mean I still don't adore her and love her and enjoy talking to her even if I don't get an answer. And, and I just wanted to share that with, with people, cuz again, if that's like a weird thing, I don't care because it helps me and I'm the only one that I've really gotta take care of first.

[00:41:40] Emily: Well, I think whether or not people wanna admit it. I think that's pretty normal and something that a lot of us look to for comfort or reassurance or just a way of staying really close with our person. Nathan was really big into like watches and so sometimes I'll wear one of his favorite watches and just feel like, oh, he's with me today, and we're off doing stuff together like we normally would, and I think that's a great way of trying to have that physical representation of them being with you or being able to speak with them. So I think that's great.

All right. Well, any other ideas or advice that you all would share with the audience? I know we're coming up on time, but any last things that come to mind?

[00:42:28] Suzanne: One thing I'd say is if you're invited out to somewhere arrive early. So if you invited to a big party or something like that, arrive early so that you're not walking into a huge room of people that you can say hello to people as they arrive.

Also scope out the place so that. If you need an escape, there's someone, yeah. Escape to just a quiet corner out in the garden, walk around the block, something like that. So if you just need a moment, you can just take that moment and as I said before, say yes to things. Say no to things, it's fine.

Either is fine and go to things and then go home. After an hour you've been, you've. You can now run away home if you want.

[00:43:20] Emily: Oh yeah, those, those are great ideas. One of the things I did during I think Christmas and New Year's was, I told my family, you're welcome to come over and I'll hang out here and, and eat and I'll, I'll help put some of the things together, but I don't wanna cook the main meal and I don't wanna entertain you.

So, So there would be times where I'd just go lay in my bedroom for a couple hours and take a nap, or just, you know, as an introvert that needs to recharge those batteries. Just have some of that away time and then I'd go back out for a while and jump back into the conversation. But I think it's perfectly fine for you to have those escape moments and those plans for what you can do if you need to step away or you need to leave early.

Those are some great tips.

[00:44:04] Dr. Clark: I think the last thing I I would just present to people is it springs from my philosophy that tears know who they can trust. There's probably some people you just don't cry in front of, and there's other people you just can't almost help not. And I think that's such a beautiful thing.

And what I would wish for everybody that does that is please don't end that with, oh, I'm so sorry. No, because that's something you're telling, you're, you're telling yourself something is wrong or you are wrong or you are bad or, and no, the tears know who they can trust and there's so many of them that need to come out that if, if they do, that means you're with someone that your tears feel safe with and you probably don't need to apologize.

And so I would much rather get through that and then tell somebody. Thank you so much for being someone my tears can trust. Cause that's a different internal dialogue than I'm sorry, I'm so, I'm, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I didn't mean to cry. I did. That's a totally different internal dialogue and then I think that says something to that other person about your appreciation of their role in your life.

Cuz let's face it, all of us are in a club. We did not want membership. Yeah, yeah. But oh my gosh, the dues keep coming and keep coming and keep coming and, and so, you know, when you can find those people that your tears are safe with, I, I literally think that's drops of grace and, and you just need to accept that and not apologize for it and, and not beat yourself up

for it.

[00:45:57] Emily: Yeah, that's definitely a great point. And what I try to tell and reiterate to people who support those who have lost someone is, you know, you can't make it better. There's nothing you can say. There's really nothing. You, you can't, there's not anything you can tell them that's gonna make them feel better.

But if you'll just sit with them and let them be sad and just listen then that you will be a hundred times more helpful than trying to give some platitude about them being in a better place or this being the plan and anything else that you can come up with. But I think it's hard cuz we want to comfort other people and we wanna fix and we wanna make things better.

It's hard to be that person that can just be still and listen and sit in the awkwardness of letting that person. Let it all out. But it is so valuable when we find those people.

All right. Well, thank you all so, so much for your time today and for your thoughts and your input. And I love seeing what all of you are doing to give back to people who are grieving and who have lost someone. So thank you for being givers of the world and we'll be sharing your information with all of our listeners.

Wow. What a great conversation with all of our panelists. If you're interested in learning more about them or something they said resonated with you, or if you know somebody who could benefit from learning more about them. Please go check out their social media, check out their information that they shared.

These folks really are givers out in the grief community. They help give input and provide back to folks who are hurting and grieving on a normalized basis. So please go out and support them, see what all they have to offer, and share them with others you know who may benefit.

[00:47:54] Emily Jones: Hey guys. Thank you so much for listening to the Brave Widow Podcast. I would love to help you take your next step, whether that's healing your heart, binding hope, or achieving your dreams for the future.

Do you need a safe space to connect with other like-minded widows? Do you wish you had how-tos for getting through the next steps in your journey, organizing your life or moving through grief? What about live calls where you get answers to your burning questions? The Brave Widow Membership Community is just what you need.

Inside you'll find courses to help guide you, a community of other widows to connect with, live coaching and q and a calls, and small group coaching where you can work on what matters most to you. Learn how to heal your heart, find hope, reclaim joy, and dream again for the future. It is possible. Head on over to brave widow.com to learn more.

 

 

 

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