Friday, December 16, 2011

The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving, by Debra Holland

For our fifth book, an author offered her excerpt on how to handle grief and grieving this Holiday season. Since many of us find the Holidays hard without a loved one, I really appreciated her offer to share this with you, my blog readers.

Book Specifics -

Genre - Non-Fiction, Self-Help
Length - Novel (336 pages)

Blurb -

Grief strikes everyone--men and women, young and old, rich and poor--at some point in life. But knowing others have gone through similar emotions does little to lessen mourning when you’re reeling from loss. How do you cope with grief and work through it? How do you help a child or other loved one find the way back from their pain?

The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving offers help and hope in coming to terms with loss and healing its wounds. Grief counselor Debra Holland explains the relationship between loss and grief, shares how others have worked through their own losses, and offers reassurance that what you’re feeling as you mourn is normal

Excerpt -

Holidays can bring up sadness and grief for loved ones who died years ago. Celebrating traditions passed on from family members connects you with them. This is a time you can yearn for their presence and miss them. Your memories of prior joyful celebrations might feel bittersweet.

This happened with my grandmother. Every Christmas Eve, my family would attend church. When the congregation sang “Silent Night,” my grandmother always cried. That hymn transported her back to her childhood, to her family gathered around the candle-lit Christmas tree as they sang carols. She missed her parents and siblings. She grieved their loss, as well as a time and place that no longer existed.

Conversely, the actual holiday might not be as bad as you think. The sadness and dread building up to the day can be far worse than the reality. Although you can feel the loss and miss the deceased, you can also have times of deep thankfulness for your blessings and gratitude for all the loved ones you have present. You can get caught up in the excitement of children celebrating, playing, and opening up presents. You can exchange stories and memories, causing laughter and tears. You feel a closer connection with your family.

The first Christmas after Stephanie’s husband died, leaving her with a toddler and a newborn, she could barely cope with day-to-day life, much less a holiday. Her neighbors chipped in to buy her a tree. They came over and decorated her home and put up the lights outside. After Christmas was over, they took everything down. Because of their kindness, the family had a nice Christmas after all. In addition, they felt loved by those around them and appreciated the goodness of the human spirit. Through helping Stephanie, the whole neighborhood became closer. Not only did Stephanie develop a new “extended family,” the neighbors formed a tight-knit community.

Here are some tips to help you weather the holidays:

[lb] Share how you’re feeling with trusted loved ones, especially the way your grief has changed or deepened due to the holiday.

[lb] Reduce your stress. This isn’t the year to worry about a perfect celebration. Only do what you feel is necessary.

[lb] Simplify and change your traditions. Pick those you feel will be meaningful this year, or create new ones.

[lb] Ask for help. Others will be happy to step forward to lend a hand. Let others know specifically what you need. Don’t say, “Can you bring something for dinner?” Do say, “Can you bring dessert for 10 people?”

[lb] Find a way to memorialize your loved one. Set out a special candle. Hang their stocking with the others and have everyone write a letter to the deceased. You can read them together on Christmas morning. Make an ornament with their picture on it or buy one that represents them in some way. Include the deceased in a family prayer.

[lb] Don’t let others direct how you should spend the holidays. Just because someone thinks it would be best for you to go away for the week, doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

[lb] Be of service to others. Helping others is a way to give new meaning to the holiday and help you feel better. Prepare and serve food at a homeless shelter or organize a gift drive for some needy families and deliver the presents yourself.

[lb] Realize that you might feel overwhelmed and exhausted, both from your reactions to the loss and from the stress and hectic pace of the holiday. As much as possible, get to bed early and take naps.

[lb] You don’t have to pretend to be happy. If you think your sadness might be a problem for others, have a little talk with them beforehand about how you and they will handle your feelings.

[lb] Spend time with people who are supportive and caring. By now, you know who among your friends and family is supportive and who’s not. Gravitate to the understanding ones and avoid the others.

During the holidays, you can’t help but think about and miss your loved one. However, try as much as possible not to dwell on your pain. Imagine your loved one being present in spirit. Instead of his or her absence, focus on the presence of the other family members. Your loss helps remind you of how precious time is with your family. Appreciate and love each one of them.

(c)Unexpected Surges of Grief

When holidays and other special events loom on your horizon, you can brace yourself for the grief you feel is coming. Other times you have no warning of what’s about to happen. Grief unexpectedly rises up and seizes you. Sometimes, the unanticipated grief can be harder to bear because it takes you by surprise and knocks you off balance.

Three months after my father’s death, my two oldest nieces had a dance recital. I sat in the audience, watching them perform, smiling and happy. Then, I realized my father wasn’t there to see his granddaughters. It hit me that he wouldn’t be part of their accomplishments as they grew up. They were young enough that they wouldn’t really know or remember him. Tears came to my eyes, and I secretly brushed them away. Afterward, I learned my mom had the exact same grief reaction.

As you can see by my example, you don’t close the door on every bit of your grief. Instead, you complete the journey into wholeness. Eventually, you will see progress in terms of weeks, months, or years. Although everyone’s timeline of grieving is different, most people can tell when they’re feeling better. More time passes between “down” days. Their reactions have lightened or gone away completely. They don’t have the mood swings they used to. People might say, “I can tell I’m doing better than I was last year at this time.” Or, “I’m more myself.” While the up and down, back and forth of grieving is frustrating, patience is the key. Allow your journey to be what it is.

(d)Essential Takeaways

[lb] Everyone’s reaction to loss and their journey from mourning to recovery is different.

[lb] A mass of emotions makes up grief, and may include guilt, loneliness, despair, sadness, resentment, envy, frustration, and shame.

[lb] Depression is a normal and understandable reaction to a loss, but if it continues for too long, seek help from a mental-health professional.

[lb] Holidays can be times of missing your loved one, but also may be an opportunity for families to come together and appreciate each other.

[lb] Grief can unexpectedly hit you on days you think you’re fine.

About the Author -

Debra Holland, M.S., Ph.D., is a psychotherapist and corporate crisis/grief counselor. She worked with American Airlines after 9-11, counseled victims of the Metrolink train wreck in 2002, volunteered as a mental health relief worker after Hurricane Katrina, and counseled victims during and after the 2008 California fires.

Debra wears several hats when it comes to writing. As a psychotherapist, she writes nonfiction books. The Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving is her first nonfiction book. More nonfiction books about grieving, boundary setting with difficult people, and relationships, are forthcoming.

Debra also writes fiction--Historial Western Romance, Contemporary Romance, Fantasy Romance, and Science Fiction. She currently has her award winning Historical Western Romance Series, The Montana Sky Series, on Kindle. Soon to come is her fantasy series and the first of a contemporary romance series.

To purchase Debra's Guide, please visit Amazon.

Thank you so much for sharing this with my readers, Debra!

Be sure to comment for your chance to win free books by participating authors of the Holiday Reads Extravaganza! Winners will be chosen on the 23rd. The more you comment, the more chances you have!



  1. Facing the first holiday without my spouse was difficult. The family changed routines and instead of them coming here I went to them. My youngest daughter hosted that family dinner. We all faced it together. We managed to not only survive, but we laughed, cried, reminisced, and had a good time. We'd all lost someone very special and dear to our hearts. He would have proud of us.

  2. E. I'm sure your husband was very proud. Thanks for sharing that it's possible to get through a painful loss and still have a good time.