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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and grief and have lived in Silicon Valley since 1969. I'm the president of Connect2 Marriage Counseling. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in ...  (More)

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Grief and the Holidays

Uploaded: Dec 17, 2021
Editor's Note: I originally posted this in 2013. Due to the 73,000 people who have read it, I think it's worth sharing again, especially after over 5.34 million people have died worldwide from Covid.

All the hubaloo around Christmas and New Year celebrations can be so painful or irrelevant when you're grieving the death of a loved one, a loss of a relationship, a miscarriage or infertility, a job. It's so hard to imagine that people are joyous, and that life is moving along--so quickly, while you are sad and time seems to be set on S L O W. You're marching to a different drummer alright, whether you want to or not.

And you are likely marching differently than your mate. That may cause other concerns, if you are even able to notice that. Please know that it is normal for people to grieve in their own way, and that while it is often different than "my" way, it is not the "wrong" way. Look for similarities in your grief, and start from there in your compassion for each other.

Another way of looking at differing styles of grief, and removing the stereotypes of gender roles, has been presented beautifully by Kenneth Doka and Terry Martin in their book Men Don't Cry, Women Do: Transcending Gender Stereotypes in Grief (1999). They introduce the concepts of "intuitive griever" and "instrumental griever," and the "blended" style of grieving:

Intuitive Griever
For the intuitive griever, the following characteristics are predominant:

- FEELINGS are intensely experienced;
- expressions such as crying and lamenting mirror the inner experience;
- successful adaptive strategies facilitate the experience and expression of feelings;
- prolonged periods of confusion, inability to concentrate, disorganization, and disorientation occur;
- physical exhaustion and/or anxiety may result.

Instrumental Griever:
The instrumental griever experiences grief in a different way:

- THINKING is predominant to feeling as an experience, while feelings are less intense;
- a general reluctance to talk specifically about feelings is common;
- mastery of oneself and the environment are most important;
- problem-solving as a strategy enables mastery of feelings and control of the environment in creating the new normal;
- brief periods of cognitive dysfunction are common--confusion, forgetfulness, obsessiveness;
- energy levels are enhanced, but symptoms of general arousal caused by the loss go unnoticed (meaning that the instrumental griever may not notice related emotional cues).

Blended grieving is a mixture of these two styles. For example, when I had several deaths in my family in a five-year period, I did a lot of intuitive grieving: I cried a lot, I talked a lot about my loved ones, I was unable or unwilling to engage in my normal activities and reactions for a long time, and I was physically exhausted. I demonstrated instrumental grieving in that I thought a lot about death, and how it has affected and changed my life. I went back to work right away. And my decision to change my career--from high-tech to becoming a therapist and writing a book about grief--are both concrete ways that I honor those that have passed.

Often, gender is assigned to a style of grieving. A woman is expected to be overcome by her emotions and a man is to keep a stiff upper lip. But by separating style from gender, each person is free to grieve in ways that are most beneficial to him or her in the process of integrating the loss. Remember that one's culture, age, life experience, gender, and social conditioning all affect one's style of grief.

It's also okay to take a break from your grief: laughing, watching a movie, getting a massage, being with friends, or giving yourself a break in any way possible is greatly encouraged. Bodies and brains are built to survive; taking care of yourself is an important tool in getting through the daily manifestations of grief, and ultimately leads to the ability to integrate grief.

Wherever you are on the journey of grief and healing is normal (even if it feels painful and not at all normal). Take the time you need, get the support you deserve, and take the best care of yourself you can. Be sure to:
- eat well;
- sleep regularly;
- exercise;
- spend time with trusted people;
- spend time in nature;
- get a physical checkup (note that many doctors still subscribe to the
"get over grief" model);
- drink plenty of water;
- meditate or spend quiet time soothing yourself;
- do activities that you enjoy;
- permit yourself to laugh;
- take breaks from grieving.

Remember that alcohol is a depressant.

The holidays will pass. You get to choose how to participate or not. Feel free to decide at the last minute, or to leave early if you do choose to socialize.

Keep open, explicit communication with your mate through all of this.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Michael Austin , a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Dec 17, 2021 at 8:25 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

Every year I bring to mind the more than three hundred Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, Indians slaughtered at Wounded Knee December 29,1890. My family members among the slaughtered. My grandfather, twelve years old survived. Blue Whirlwind, wounded fourteen times, survived the slaughter, two of her sons also wounded, her husband Spotted Elk was killed. Alice Ghost Horse survived. Her husband, Ghost Horse and two sons were among the slaughtered. There is history unremembered.

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a blogger,
on Dec 18, 2021 at 8:40 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Michael, that’s grief most people can’t imagine. And inter-generational. I don’t have words . . . I’m so sorry doesn’t begin to touch it. Chandrama

Posted by Michael Austin , a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Dec 19, 2021 at 9:29 am

Michael Austin is a registered user.

It's pain and anger that Linger's.

The pain: The U.S. Hotchkiss guns (Artillery Pieces) trained on the Indian camp opened fire and sent storm of shells and bullets among the women and children. The guns poured in 2-pound explosive shells at the rate of fifty per minute. Childrens bodies had powder burns around the wounds. A nursing infant had five bullet holes through its body. In a few minutes three hundred men, women, and children were lying dead and wounded on the ground. Mothers with infants in their arms fleeing the slaughter were run down and murdered up to three miles away.

The anger: Thirty of the U.S. military carrying out the slaughter were awarded medals of honor for their gallantry and bravery in their murderous rampage. One citation noted "conspicuous bravery in rounding up and bringing to the skirmish line a stampeded mule". Most all of the citations noted courage, bravery under enemy fire. there was no enemy, there was no enemy fire. This was another episode of U.S. military genocide.

Source: Congressional record, Library of Congress, Oxford University Press, Oral History.

Posted by NanaDi, a resident of Midtown,
on Dec 24, 2021 at 11:29 am

NanaDi is a registered user.

@Michael Austin: Please accept my condolences for such an unthinkable loss in your Family. I am FURIOUS on your behalf, as well as grief-stricken. ox

Posted by Michael Austin , a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Dec 26, 2021 at 8:33 am

Michael Austin is a registered user.

NanaDi: Thank you.

I wish to add a quote from Chief Joseph, Nez Pearce Tribe, and my young brothers last words. With the end of the Nez Pearce War 1877. Chief Joseph said, "I will fight no more forever".

My young brother came home from the Vietnam War to a military hospital. Where on the grounds of the hospital he placed a rope around his neck, the other end to a tree.

Following my young brother's services with full military honors. the undertaker handed me a crumpled piece of paper he removed from my brother's body. I uncrumpled that piece of paper. My brother wrote, "I will struggle no more forever".

Posted by NanaDi, a resident of Midtown,
on Dec 27, 2021 at 11:40 am

NanaDi is a registered user.

@Michael Austin: I am overwhelmed with sympathy for the tragic loss of your poor brother. I am familiar with the quote from Chief Joseph, and your brother's words are profound. I'm so sorry that your family has endured so much cruel loss. ox

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