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Holidays, A Difficult Challenge
By Marion McNurlen, MSW, LICSW

Reprinted from Minnesota S.I.D.S. Newsletter Vol. 11 No. 4, December 1991

As I write this, Thanksgiving is just a week away, soon to be followed by Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year's Eve. Most everyone has some ambivalence along with their joy as they come up to this busy time of year. You know the usual feelings, things like: life is so busy, I can barely keep up; how can I manage to buy the gifts ... wrap presents ... get to all the events ... keep up with work ... etc. But for each of you who are facing this holiday season without your beloved child, the hassles and pain are all magnified many times. You know you really can't do all you usually do, and probably none of it feels very "right" or makes sense. Many of you may have a strong feeling of just wanting the holidays to be over so you don't have to deal with them. For many SIDS parents, especially in the first year or two, finding joy in the season is nearly impossible.

Recently, a parent gave me a definition of coping as "struggling successfully with difficult challenges". I like this definition because it suggests that it is possible to struggle and be successful at the same time. So, as you ask yourself "how will we ever cope with December?" it is good to remember that your struggle is a normal part of coping. There are some guidelines which may assist the struggles that each of you will face, and assure more successful coping. Stated simply 1) keep your expectations low (if you don't expect much of yourself and others it will be harder to be disappointed), 2) be patient with yourself and others, 3) remove as many stresses from your holidays as you can, 4) change any holiday traditions that seem inappropriate and, 5) allow others to support and help you.

In order to assist you in evaluating your expectations, stresses, and possible pitfalls, there is a helpful work list following this article. You each have an opportunity to determine what the essential parts of the season are for you: which activities can be eliminated and which are essential. You can also use the form to evaluate tasks that can be done by others or changed to better fit your current needs. I encourage you to take time to fill out the form and use it to make your holiday a successful one that has both time for memory and sadness and also time for joy.

I wish each of you a successful holiday season that allows you to feel love, healing and hope as you look the year ahead.

Would the holidays be the same without it? Is this something you want to do differently? Do you do it out of habit, tradition, free choice, or obligation? Is it a one person job, or can it be shared? Who is responsible for seeing that it gets done? Do you like doing it?
Decorating the tree. - - - - - -
Contributing to special funds. - - - - - -
Baking holiday cookies. Exchanging holiday cookies. - - - - - -
Making long lists of what needs to be done. - - - - - -
Going to office or school parties. - - - - - -
Making homemade holiday gifts. - - - - - -
Sending holiday cards. - - - - - -
Buying something special to wear for the holidays. - - - - - -
Going to cocktail parties. - - - - - -
Doing your holiday shopping. - - - - - -
Seeing people you never see any other time of the year. - - - - - -
Helping or encouraging your children to make some of their gifts. - - - - - -
Having the house clean ... clean! - - - - - -
Decorating different rooms of your home. - - - - - -
Providing "quiet-together" time for immediate family. - - - - - -
Buying gifts for co-workers and teachers. - - - - - -
Attending special or traditional church services. - - - - - -
Attending special activities for children. - - - - - -
Preparing special traditional foods. - - - - - -

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