Kristin Meekhof, LMSW
4 minute read.
If you speak to anyone who suffered a loss this year, chances are they will tell you they feel lost. They may also tell you they wish they could quash the holidays all together rather than trying to adapt to these trying times. And since grief is an isolating experience, creating meaningful connections is especially important this year. Although, you may feel it is awkward to reach out to someone without a set agenda, seeking others to connect with either virtually or by telephone is essential.
And connecting with your loved one who is no longer physically present is another way to cope with loss. One way I connect with my late husband (he died in 2007) and my father, (who died in 1979 when I was two weeks shy from turning five) is through letter writing. The letters vary in length and tone. And I don’t worry about grammar or punctuation. My focus is sharing whatever is on my heart and mind. I let the words fall on the page however they may land. Somehow, I always feel enriched by writing these letters.
It is a difficult thing to acknowledge our grief, but if we aren’t transparent with ourselves the emotional wound is often tougher to heal. Sometimes when we try to go on with the business of the social distant holidays and don’t listen to our pain, the sadness increases. So, it is important to seek professional licensed mental health treatment for bereavement.
Seeking help is a way of cultivating hope. The choice for getting help is also an act of self- compassion. It is a way to be kind to the struggles of your heart, mind and body.
A handful of years ago I received one of those late night phone calls that causes panic even before you answer because you know the person wouldn’t be calling you at this time of night unless it was an emergency. So I answered the call with a lump in my throat and a very weak, “Hello.”
My friend began talking as though we were in mid- conversation. Her sister’s husband lost control of their car, and slid under a semi truck. And just like that everything changed. I knew the end result.
My friend added that she felt powerless not knowing what to do for her sister who had young children. Despite years of professional education in mental health and clinical experience, I froze. In a small attempt to offer comfort, I slipped in one of those things that is easy to say, “I’m so sorry,” and then I said this, “I don’t know what else to say.”
There was silence. I looked at the phone thinking I accidentally ended the call. More silence. We both knew there was nothing either of us could say to assuage the pain or make the loss acceptable.
The very next morning, I was awake before 6 am to prepare for my long-distance run. I couldn’t get the conversation off of my mind. During my run, I thought of hope, and realized that hope is something we long for, and at the present moment for this family, there was very little hope. Lives had been forever damaged.
And as I was driving later that morning, I was thinking about something I had read about listening to your life and looking for signs which will guide you. And at that moment, a car pulled out in front of me. The car had this license plate: Hopemor (the letter e was missing but you get the message). And there it was front and center: Hope. Hope more.
The path to healing this holiday season isn’t known. It is uncommon. And that’s why the fear seems so quite intense, so look for signs all around you of hope. Sometimes they’re in front of us and other times they are subterranean but they are there- reasons to hope.
Kristin Meekhof is a writer, life coach and the best- selling author of the book “A Widow’s Guide to Healing”. She has a M.S.W. from the University of Michigan, and her work has been seen on CNN, Katie Couric Media, Maria Shriver’s newsletter, Inc., USA Today, Today Show (online), American Greetings, among others. Kristin has spoken at Harvard Medical School, the United Nations and University of Michigan Hospital. You can find out more about Kristin at https://www.kristinmeekhof.com/