We’ve headed into the holiday season, a tough time for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Merchants are in full gear. Here in the United States, we've just had a day for giving thanks, followed by two more of heavy advertising and promotions.
Today is “Cyber Monday.” That term was created 9 years ago, by marketing companies, to persuade people to shop online. Marketers literally “declared this day into existence” and shoppers responded.
For survivors who are new to the grief journey, the holiday season, along with all this advertising, holds little promise. There is little call to celebrate, decorate or buy gifts when one’s heart is broken.
I still recall the emptiness I felt the first year after my stepson’s death. I could not shop. I certainly could not put up the elaborate decorations of previous years. I could barely get through each day. At some point, I decided to put an angel figure in every room of the house. That seemed appropriate. I recall that my daughter Heather, gave me a pair of angel earrings with a note: “If you wear these Mom, there will be an angel in every room you enter.”
I always urge new survivors to honor their feelings at this time. Take a few minutes to anticipate the demands of the holiday season. Think about what you want to do – what is meaningful for you. Trust in your heart. And know that others understand and will be here for you on the Alliance of Hope forum. You are not alone.
During that holiday 19 years ago, I could not see a future of anything but loneliness and pain. Only with the help of others, did I survive and eventually begin to thrive. It was a journey of many years, but during that time, I grew stronger. You will too. I grew wiser. You will too. I chose to live, and then live in a way that makes a difference. I think you will too.
In closing, I want to mention that we still have a say with regard to the dominance of materialism at this time of year. In 2012, philanthropists launched a new day: “#GivingTuesday.” It’s a day to give back--a day to pay it forward. The Alliance is participating, along with hundreds of other nonprofits, in getting that message out and providing a way for people to participate in the true meaning of the season. As I write this essay, we are almost ½ way toward meeting our goal of $50,000 to fund our work. If you would like to make a contribution to help us reach that goal, please click here.
As always, my thoughts and prayers are with each and every member of the Alliance of Hope community.
Ronnie Susan Walker MS, LCPC is the Founder and Executive Director of the Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors.