Grievers offered ‘Bill of Rights’ for holidays


Staff Writer

After the loss of a loved one, getting through the holidays can be very difficult. To help those who are grieving prepare emotionally for the holidays, Lorrie Quinlan and Dorothy Martin, who provide courses on grief, recently presented “Coping With Loss” at the South Brunswick Senior Center.

Quinlan said coming to the class for many is a hard process in itself and opens up individuals to feelings of loss.

Martin, who has lost two members of her family, thanked residents for having the courage to come to the class.

Before the lecture began, Martin and Quinlan introduced the class to the grievers’ mascot, a duck. Bereaved people are like ducks, Martin said.

“Above the surface they look composed and unruffled, but below the surface, they’re paddling like crazy,” Martin said.

Martin began by reading a poem that helped to characterize grief.

“Grieving is as natural as crying,” Martin read, setting the mood for the class.

Describing grief as “the deepest wound,” Martin explained the 10 stages of grief, such as denial, anger and depression, as a natural process that individuals need to go through.

However, not all individuals enter the stages at exact times, Martin said.

“Grief is not neat; it is not tidy,” Martin said.

Grief, according to Martin, should be given the space that is needed, especially around the holiday season.

“They’re here, they’re everywhere,” Quinlan said about the holidays.

The holidays, according to Quinlan, are slammed into the faces of those who do not want to deal with them. And usually the anticipation of the holiday becomes greater than the actual day itself, Quinlan said.

According to Quinlan, those suffering from loss should plan their grief, become aware of it, and realize that they cannot make everyone happy.

Although everyone has to deal with the holidays, there are useful tips to make them more bearable, Quinlan said.

Quinlan began with an introduction to the “Grievers’ Holiday Bill of Rights.” Among the recommendations offered were:

• “You have the right to say ‘time out,’ ” Quinlan said. During the holiday rush, grievers should find a place to be alone, where people can’t find them when they feel overwhelmed.

• “You have the right to tell it like it is,” Quinlan said. When people ask how you are, tell them the truth, or choose not tell them anything, she said.

• “You have the right to ‘bah-humbug’ days,” Quinlan said, and you don’t have to act jolly all the time. It’s helpful to set up a code to let others know you need to let off some steam, she said.

• “You have the right to do things differently or keep them the same,” Quinlan said. Those grieving may find comfort in tradition or choose to make changes, if keeping tradition without loved one proves too difficult, she said.

Instead of holiday shopping, grievers may decide to make donations, give gift certificates or use the Internet to keep themselves out of stores. Sending cards could be signed differently in memory of the loss of a loved one.

Traditions like putting up a tree can be achieved with some additional planning. “Ask friends to put it up while you’re out or get a smaller tree,” she said. Those grieving can make memorials for loved ones by lighting a candle or leaving an empty chair in remembrance, Quinlan said.

• “You have the right to be where you want to be,” Quinlan said. Initially, those who are grieving may decline invitations for holiday events, only realize later that they may have liked to attend.

According to Quinlan, individuals should not make hasty decisions but give themselves time to think about attending. Good friends, Quinlan said, will understand the need for additional time before committing.

• “You have the right to have some fun,” Quinlan said. For many grievers, this is the hardest part of holiday season, but it’s OK to smile and be happy, she said.

“Don’t ever feel you can’t have fun,” Quinlan said. “You have the right to change directions in mid-stream.”

It is all right, according to Quinlan, to change your mind if situations become too overwhelming.

• “You have the right to do it all differently next year,” Quinlan said. This year’s traditions may have helped you cope but may not be needed in the following years. “Do what is right for you, not what other people think is right for you,” she said.