Monday, January 16, 2017

22 Key Factors to find a Coach who can challenge you toward greater results

By: Dwight Bain, LMHC

If you want a better life you must have a better coach because if you pick the wrong one you will not experience the results you want.
In fact if you have a bad coach you may have to fire them. Don’t worry – A non-performing coach knows you will fire them since coaching is about results for the client, nothing more, nothing less.  
So how can you find a better coach? Here are the action steps to help you, and those you care about , find a coach who can challenge you to climb higher, dream bigger and accomplish more than you could have ever done alone. Start with the basics in your own life and ask the following -
1. Are you “coachable,” that is, do you seek out coaching and respond to critique?
2. Is your life emotionally and relationally stable?
3. Are you ready for a coach?
4. Do you have the time to take on new projects?
5. Are you eager to move past the roadblocks toward experiencing your potential?
If you answered ‘Yes” to at least 4 of these 5 questions then move forward to the next section in seeking out a great coach. However, if you answered “No” to more than half of these questions coaching may not be right for you at this time.
Once an experienced coach discovers you aren’t really ready to change they will likely fire you for wasting their time.   So who is an ideal coach for you? Look for someone who:

• Shares your values
• Who has extensive experience
• Who is a good fit in personality
• Can relate to your life journey
• That you can feel connected to
• Who offers one-on-one coaching specific to your needs
• Who is taking new client’s
• Has a level of success in their niche of the coaching industry
• Who offers a free consult, (it is wise to avoid people who are more motivated about getting your money than listening to your challenges to see if they are a good fit to help)  

You have to ask the right questions to find an Experienced Coach and choosing an experienced coach is essential if you want to experience positive results to rapidly reach your goals. Here is an extensive checklist of key issues to ask before you select a coach.
Asking the right question can save you a TON of problems, a lot of money and more importantly protect your time in reaching your goals.  
___ Is the potential coach’s belief system and moral values similar to yours?
___ Research the coach’s education, credentials, knowledge and experience in dealing with your specific type of coaching challenge
___Ask how many years the coach been in professional practice, and how long in this region of the country? (This usually shows they are highly skilled and well-connected in your region in case you need local referrals for other services).
___Ask about the coach’s professional reputation in the community; Are they viewed as a leader within their industry, or a novice just beginning their career? (Remember, experience counts when you are trying to rapidly solve problems)
___Does the coach possess additional training, certifications, and credentials that match your specific challenge?
___Is the coach quoted by the media or recognized as a published author on the issues you are facing? This is important because it shows that the coach is a trusted resource by the professional community.
___ Can you find them on the Internet via Google or other search engines as an established author or professional known for their areas of expertise who is highly trusted and recommended by other leaders?
___Was the coach referred by a physician, lawyer, clergy member or other member of the professional community that you trust?
___Was the coach referred by a prior coaching client? This adds significant credibility to the coach’s work because you can ask your friends or family what their experiences were like. Did they like their coach and was their time useful to achieve results?
___Does the coach believe in a team approach to find other professional to address challenges they are not skilled in, and are they open to referring you on to the best professional in case they can’t best meet your needs?  

Critique, not Criticism
Remember, a coach’s role is to challenge you. It won’t be “warm & fuzzy” and no one will be singing “Kum-ba-Ya” at the end of the call. Coaching is about results. If your coach’s values are too different, the questions and techniques they offer may not make a lot of sense to you and you won’t achieve your goals. 
Ruthlessly press past the fear of hurting feelings to make sure you have the right professional by your side.
Effective Coaching is an adversarial process so you shouldn’t start looking for a new coach just because your current coach pushes and actively challenges you. Getting in your face about issues is their job. As long as they are offering valid critique you likely have the right coach.  
However, CRITIQUE is different that CRITICISM. One is about challenging you, the other is about attacking you.   Finally, consider these factors after the first meeting with your coach to insure they are a good fit to achieve the greatest results.  
___Did the coach listen to you, and most importantly respect you?
___Did you feel valued as a person?
___Did you feel confident the coach had the skills and experience to move forward?
___Did you feel comfortable honestly describing your roadblocks to your coach, or were you embarrassed to spell it out?
___Is the coach easy to get in touch with if you have a question, either via telephone, web or email?
___Does the coach appear to be organized, or do they have administrative support staff to assist with tasks to keep their office running efficiently and smoothly?
___Does the coach run on schedule to respect your time?
___Does the coach’s approach and style feel like a good fit?
___Do you feel that the coach is genuinely interested in you and seeing you accomplish your goals?
___Does the coach offer additional guidance through printed resources, articles, assessments, tests, books or direction toward web links to give you greater insight?
___Does the coach remember important details from meeting to meeting?
___Does the coach inspire you to accept life challenges and push you toward creating positive change?  
If you can honestly say that your coach is a good fit after mapping out these factors, then buckle up, because you are about to launch on a rocket-ride toward the life you were designed to live. Finding and living out God’s potential is one of the most important goals of life. Finding and listening to the right Coach will get you there.  

About the author-  Dwight Bain guides leaders to re-write their story through creative change. He is an author, Certified Leadership Coach and Nationally Certified Counselor based in Orlando, Follow him across all social platforms @dwightbain   

It’s Time to Banish New Year’s Resolutions

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC
One of the most difficult therapeutic processes is confronting the forgotten oaths/promises/resolutions a person has unconsciously internalized which continue to cause harm. Oaths are made to never forget the pain of a broken heart. Promises are forged of not turning into a dysfunctional parent. Resolutions are created out of childhood trauma.
Then ironically, as if one broken desire is not enough, society encourages the pattern to restart every year. In Roman mythology, the god Janus (believed to be the root of January) is known for transitions from old into new. People would make promises to the god at the start of the year. This is the origin of the New Year’s tradition. But just because something has been done for centuries, does not mean it needs to continue into the future.
According to the University of Scranton, Journal of Clinical Psychology (2016) research, 45% of Americans will make a New Year’s resolution but only 8% will achieve it with 24% having never succeeded at all. Such numbers indicates a brokenness and need for change.
So instead of another year of failed resolve, become intentional with a single purpose for the year. Personally, I like to pick a word as a goal for the year. There are no resolutions attached, just an aim or direction going forward. Here are a couple of examples:
  • Restore. Left unmanaged, relationships, like water, take the path of least resistance and can easily deteriorate over time. Some are better left alone while other relationships may need restoration. Be deliberate in rebuilding bonds with people who enhance life.
  • Courage. Fear has a way of destroying courage over time. It takes courage to try new things, to confront past failures, and to move forward without knowing all the specifics. Embracing this concept strengths character and resolve.
  • Health. This is not about starting a new diet, drinking more water, or taking vitamins. Rather, it is about scheduling annual check-ups, healing old injuries, discovering alternatives to medication, and modifying lifestyle. Health can be physical, mental or emotional.
  • Organize. While cleaning out a forgotten closet is helpful, organizing time, energy and resources is far more valuable. There are several good methods but one of the best is Stephen Covey’s Time Matrix which classifies every activity into one of four quadrants.
  • Balance. Striking a balance between work, play, relationships, and family can be difficult. But by spending one year discovering new ways to create a healthy balance between the various roles, the long-term results can be quite significant.
  • Attitude. The old saying, “Attitude is everything,” has some merit as perception can become reality. This is not positive thinking which frequently incorporates some form of denial. Rather, it is about confront difficult situations with a can-do mentality.
  • Peace. In a time when peace is lacking from the world around, finding peace within one’s self is even more beneficial. This might mean letting go of past hurts, guilt, shame, and inadequacy in placement for healing, initiative, autonomy, and industry.
  • Discovery. There are so many places to visit, things to see, and activities to do even within small towns. This could be on a large scale such as traveling to a foreign country or learning a new trade. Or it could be smaller such as learning to cook or exploring a local park.
  • Creative. Everyone has the capacity to be creative in some manner. A well negotiated deal, a beautiful painting, inspired writing, new business plan, or an innovative solution all require imagination and creativity.
  • Confront. The art of confrontation is a learned skill. Not everyone appreciates the same type or level of conflict. Nor is the same appropriate for every circumstance. Knowing the difference requires practice and expert timing.
  • Happy. Happiness is more than a choice; it is a state of mind. While it can be situational, it must also be intentionally sought, otherwise it can abscond. This is not about winning a large lottery pot; rather it is about discovering happiness in the smaller more elusive things of life.
  • Rest. There is a huge difference between purposeful and haphazard rest. A focused rest is taking time out to do a relaxing and enjoyable activity to rejuvenate. Whereas, disorganized rest is done out of exhaustion and isn’t as nearly as productive.

This year instead of making yet another forgotten and broken resolution chose a word that provides a purposeful direction. See where it takes you. It might just be the best year yet.
To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Five Ways a Narcissist Comes Unglued

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC
The angry outburst of a narcissist is like a two-year old temper tantrum. It appears out of no where, creates an unnecessary scene, and shocks others into inaction. It is the ultimate in selfish behavior as everything immediately becomes about them and what they want. Just like a child, a narcissist cannot tell the difference between what they need and what they want. The two things are exactly the same and as such an angry rant is sparked by both.
There are five main reasons for a narcissistic temper tantrum:
1.       Shattering their fantasy - Two year olds think imaginary, not logically. Narcissists also have a distorted perception of reality where they are all powerful, beautiful, knowing, authoritative, and right. Any shattering of that fantasy is met with immediate anger.
2.      Revealing their insecurity – At the heart of every narcissist, is a deep rooted insecurity that causes shame or doubt such as abuse. Most of the displayed grandiosity is an effort to cover up that insecurity. But the second it is revealed, the narcissist becomes angry in order to deflect the shameful image.
3.      Challenging their superiority – All narcissists view themselves as being superior to others in appearance, intelligence, and/or influence. Any challenge to that image is met with swift retaliation and competitive reactions. They must win at all costs even if the damage is a lost relationship.
4.      Seeking attention – Just like a two year old, some narcissists have learned that if they can’t get positive attention, negative will do just fine. Narcissists crave daily doses of attention, affirmation, affection, and admiration. When they don’t get it, they react aggressively.
5.      Embarrassing moments – Narcissists take pleasure in embarrassing and humiliating others. They are famous for saying, “I was only joking,” and expecting others to be OK with the derogatory comments. But when others do the same thing back, the response is a severe backlash.
There are four ways a narcissist expresses anger:
1.       Aggressive – This can be instantaneously in the form of verbal lashings, throwing objects, threats of harm, yelling, being argumentative, unyielding in opinions, repetitive speech, twisting the truth, and intimidation.
2.      Suppressive – This type of anger is expressed as giving the silent treatment, ignoring problems or people, playing the victim, complaining about physical aches, being resentful without ever saying it, alienation of family members, and hiding money. Sometimes this anger later expressed in an explosive manner.
3.      Passive-aggressive – This is a more sneaky from of expression though sulking, gossiping, sarcasm, back-stabbing, agreeing to a person’s face but then refusing later, charming those they hate, setting others up for failure, procrastinating, gaslighting, and guilt-tripping.
4.      Violent – When other forms of anger fail to get the point across, some narcissists will escalate to carrying out threats of violence on self or others or being intentionally abusive.

Instead of becoming defensive or attacking back at a narcissist during the next temper tantrum, try using the opportunity to study their methods. Narcissists like to do the same thing over and over especially when it has already proven to be effective. Being able to anticipate a blow-up is the first step in learning how to counteract the attack.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Signs of stress in children following a major Crisis

Sometimes parents need help identifying stress in children or teens. Here are some typical experiences and signs of stress in children of different ages who have experienced major crisis.

·        Regression of sleeping, toilet training or eating; slowing down in the mastery of new skills
·        Sleep disturbances (difficulty going to sleep; frequently waking)
·        Difficulty leaving parent, extreme clinginess
·        General crankiness, temper tantrums, crying

·        Regression-returning to security blankets/discarded toys, lapses in toilet training, thumb sucking or other age inappropriate behavior
·        Immature grasp of what has happened; bewildered; making up fantasy stories
·        Blaming themselves and feeling guilty about how the crisis affected their family
·        Bedtime anxiety; fitful/fretful sleep; frequent waking or chronic worrying
·        Fear of being abandoned by both parents; clinginess increases as child feels unsafe
·        Greater irritability, aggression, or temper tantrums, especially from previously quiet children

·        Pervasive sadness; especially when perceived feelings of being abandoned or rejected
·        Crying and sobbing can be a common reaction, and sometimes a healing one
·        Afraid of their worst fears coming true, this is sometimes called “catastrophizing”
·        Fantasies that the stressful event didn’t happen and things will ‘just go back to normal’
·        May become overactive or over-involved to avoid thinking about stressful issues
·        Feel ashamed of the crisis; or feel they are different from other children because of the crisis

·        Fear of being isolated and lonely, separation anxiety increases in kids with other major losses.
·        Fear loss of stability and security from parents leaving them or parents not available to them
·        Feel hurried to achieve independence, partly to escape the crisis situation
·        May tend to over-achieve academically or in sports to try and forget the crisis
·        Worry about their own future; preoccupied with the survival of any stable situation
·        Chronic fatigue; difficulty concentrating, physical complaints may indicate stuffed emotions
·        Mourn the loss caused by the crisis or begin to understand that life can be a dangerous place

(Created by Kathleen O’Connell and Dwight Bain to help kids in crisis)

Strategies to help children after a crisis

Children look to their parents for support and encouragement during any crisis. The following is a guide to help parents and teachers manage the flood of emotions that may come up because of the terrorist attacks.

Ages birth-6
It is recommended that children under the age of six not be given exposure to major traumatic events. Children of this age draw their support from their parents, so if the parents or guardians feel safe and secure, the children will as well. Parents should speak calmly around children about bad things that happen in the world, and that "we will remember the people that were hurt in our prayers." If the parents are able to maintain a sense of calmness, children will feel safe.

Ages 6-12
Children this age are more aware of the world around them, yet still need moms and dads to shield them from most of the bad news in our world. Very limited exposure to the media is recommended at this stage, with more open discussions about any fears or insecurities that the child is feeling. Talking is encouraged for this age group, or write letters to emergency workers to thank them for helping the victims. Drawing pictures allows for healthy emotional expression, and something everyone needs is just being held close. A hug can help bring security to a child. Also remember to have special times of prayer. These steps help children better deal with their fears about bad things that happen in the world.

Ages 12-18
Young people have their own impressions of traumatic events. The older they are, the more likely they will have strong opinions, and it is normal for them to process their feelings with friends. This should be balanced with family, teachers, pastors or counselors. They need time to verbally process how they feel about what happened ten years ago. Special emphasis should be placed on helping this age group talk through the issues and how it impacted them and not stay isolated. Silence is a warning sign that the crisis events of the past have been internalized. Strict limits on over exposure of media is essential to prevent anxiety or panic levels from rising.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

How Narcissistic Parenting Breeds Devastation

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC, NCC

Ideally, a child is given the freedom to explore and express their individuality so they can develop into a confident and well balanced adult. This nurturing environment prioritizes the needs of the child over the parent without overindulgence. But this is not the case when one parent is a narcissist.
Most children are unaware their dysfunctional narcissistic parent as they fully accept the parent’s false perception of reality. However, when critical thinking kicks in around age twelve combined with the increased influence of peer relationships, things begin to change. Healthy parenting views this process as a natural progression of becoming an adult while narcissistic parenting views the transformation as threatening.
As a result, the narcissistic parent will either withdraw completely or they attempt to control the teen through degradation or humiliation. But this is just the start. When the teen becomes an adult, the years of narcissistic parenting reveal far more devastating consequences. Using the symptoms of a narcissist as the starting point, here are the results of dysfunctional parenting:

1.       Grandiosity breeds criticalness. A narcissistic parent (NP) magnifies their accomplishments to the point the child believes they are super-human. The child desperately tries to live up to the image of the NP. However, when they come close, the NP raises the bar again to keep it just out of reach of the child. Internally, the child becomes overly critical of their actions, believing they need to be perfect. When they can’t reach perfectionism, they shut down entirely and engage in self-harming behaviors.
2.      Idealism breeds despair. NPs create their own fantasy world where they are all powerful, successful, brilliant, or beautiful. Children of narcissists are expected to be physical extensions of the NP. So if the child is intelligent, the NP takes the credit. When the child achieves a reward, it is as if the NP got it instead. Since no success is solely at the hands of the child, they lose hope that their accomplishments matter. This generates feelings of despair and despondency.
3.      Superiority breeds inferiority. For a NP, being average is as bad as below average. Since narcissists believe they are superior and can only associate with other superior people, their children by extension must also be exceptional. This pressure is overwhelming to a child who may realize they are not extraordinary in everything they do. As a result, this unrealistic expectation set by the NP generates feelings of inferior in the child. “I can never be good enough,” is a common thought of the child.
4.      Attention-seeking breeds anxiety. A narcissist needs daily feeding of attention, affection, affirmation or admiration. When the child is small, they learn that the quickest way to get their needs met is to fill these needs of the NP first. This is behavioral conditioning at its finest. However, anxiety in the child manifests as they constantly try to anticipate and meet the needs of the NP to prevent an emotion explosion or backlash.
5.      Entitlement breeds shame. By nature of being a parent, the NP expects the child to go along with whatever the NP wants. The wants or desires of the child is constantly overshadowed or belittled by the NP. This generates feelings of shame in the child as they begin to invalidate their own likes and dislikes in favor of the NP. Consequently, the child becomes a shell believing their uniqueness and individuality is shameful.
6.      Selfishness breeds mistrust. In the pursuit of self-preservation, the NP will justify taking advantage of others, including their own children. The child’s self-centered behaviors are met with swift and severe punishment despite the NP’s consistent modeling of the same. The NP abuses their parental role by diverting attention from the NP’s selfishness and instead highlights the deficiencies of the child. This propagates mistrust in the child as they ascertain the NP to be an unsafe and untrustworthy person.
7.      Indifference breeds over responsibility. Even when the child is excitedly talking about a new adventure, the NP will tune them out or divert the conversation to make it about the NP. Worse yet, when the child is in pain, either emotional or physical, there is no empathy or understanding. Sadly, the child doesn’t see this as a problem of the NP; rather the child assumes responsibility that somehow they were in the wrong. The result is an internal nagging of needing to take responsibility for the flaws or faults of others.
8.      Materialism breeds dissatisfaction. Narcissists use material possessions as a way of elevating themselves over others and controlling behavior. For instance, a NP will use gifting as a way of demanding performance from the child. If the child does what is expected, they get elaborate and expensive gifts. But if the child does not live up to expectations, they might not get a gift at all. The use of material objects in this manner steels the joy of item as the child is in constant fear that the gift will be revoked for lack of performance.
9.      Arrogance breeds inauthenticity. While the NP puts on a show of snootiness to everyone outside of the home, those inside, especially children, see the deep rooted insecurity that lies beneath the fa├žade. However, if the child dares to expose the insecurity, they are swiftly gaslighted as the NP makes the child look crazy. This teaches the child never to reveal their own uncertainties resulting in a lack of genuineness.

Fortunately, these childhood patterns can be reversed through an understanding of narcissism, awareness of false truths, and a more accurate perception of reality. Counseling is extremely beneficial in exposing and eradicating the lies of narcissistic parenting.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Moving Past Ugly Christmas Sweaters

By: Dwight Bain, LMHC

Did you know this is the hap-happiest time of the year for some people, but also the saddest time for others? That is because the holiday season is literally like a magnifying glass to expand the emotions a person is already experiencing. If your year has gone well, this is an incredible time of rejoicing and celebration. However, if your year has gone like it has for many people you have magnified grief, loss or loneliness. Feeling down over the holidays is normal, but can become overwhelming very quickly. The continual exposure to people who seem to be having the best time of their lives, or the television specials with picture perfect families having the best time ever can leave a person feeling empty inside.

If you, or someone you love is missing the Christmas Spirit, know you are not alone. Relationship loss, job changes, or business downturns can leave someone feeling intense negative emotions. Here are five ways to move from the stress of Ugly Christmas Sweater weather to find a place of greater significance.

1. Volunteer more
There are wonderful charities who reach out to the most desperate in our community every day of the year. However it's easy to forget the fact they need high levels of volunteer hours to function. Want to find more joy? Get involved in groups that make a difference by volunteering with wonderful groups like the Christian Service Center, or Christian Help 

2. Give more
You may have seen the bell-ringers of the Salvation Army in front of your local grocery store, and if so I hope you dug deep to drop in a few dollars for one of my favorite charities that helps people after crisis events in their lives. to find out more and how you can get involved.

3. Connect more
There are groups to support just about every possible loss or change in a persons life. In fact over two thousand are listed at Resource Point, so you can find places to grow through challenging times together with the support of trained professionals who have time and resources to help.

4. Talk more
If you or someone you care for is hurting and feeling deep loss, it is so very important to let other people know. Consider reaching out to people in your family, friends, coworkers or neighbors so you aren't going through this season alone. Simply answering honestly when someone asks "how are you doing?' can spark a conversation to open up the dialogue between you and people who may be more interested in helping you than you could imagine.

5. Write more
If you don't have money for presents and are feeling sad about it, there is a more powerful way to move past Ugly Christmas Sweaters to powerful Christmas letters is to write down how you feel about someone and then print it out to read and give to that person in your life. Reading your deepest feelings to someone you care about will change you and change them. It is a very sentimental way to open the hearts between two people and is worth far more than money.

I hope you are counting more blessings than problems this Christmas season, but if there is more sadness than celebration try each of these options to replace the sadness with joy. Finding the real meaning of Christmas through generous living, will always lead to generous giving and that is a gift that will last the whole year long.

About the Author - Dwight Bain helps people rewrite their story through creative change as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and Life Coach. Follow him across all social platforms @DwightBain

10 Ways to Beat the Holiday Stress

By: Christine Hammond, LMHC, NCC

Instead of the song lyric “It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” holidays can be ‘the most stressful time of the year.’  With all there is to do (gifting, decorating, and baking), places to go (cocktail parties, family gatherings, and school recitals), and people to see (friends, family and colleagues), life can feel overwhelming. Here are ten ways to reduce the exhaustion:
1.      Simplify. It is often the addition of things, people, and activities to an already busy life which turns the holidays into a hectic mess. Instead plan for the interruption by setting aside blocks of time without an activity planned. Any task such as cleaning out the garage that can be diverted till after the New Year should be eliminated from the schedule.
2.    Clarify. This is not the time to do activities or travel to see family without wanting to do it. If there is no desire, the event should be avoided. Don’t add to the schedule anything for which is designed to please others at the expense of personal energy.
3.    Participate. Allow each family member to choose an activity or meal that they want. No matter how young or old the person is, the gesture will be much appreciated and can reduce family tension.
4.    Create. This is less about making something and more about allowing the imagination to flow over the wonder of the season. Use this time to pull something from the images conjured that can be done in the present. It could be a trip to warmer or colder weather, ice skating outdoors, or trying out a new set of recipes.
5.     Smell. Interestingly enough, one of the best ways to increase relaxation and reduce the side effects of stress is to breath in an appealing scent. Perhaps this is why the latest craze is the essential oils, scented candles, and aroma therapy. Finding a fragrance that is appealing might take some effort but it can bring about almost instant relaxation.
6.    Reflect. What does this season mean to you? What is important about it and who is most important? Make the answers to these questions be the intentional focus of the holidays instead of the distraction of stuff, malls, traffic, and meaningless events.
7.     Balance. With everything going on this time of year, it is easy to forget the basics. Don’t forget to exercise, eat right, get enough sleep, drink plenty of water, and take vitamins. These things are even more important now when the routine is a bit frantic.
8.    Rejuvenate. Extroverts draw their energy from others while introverts require alone time to rejuvenate. When things are busy, this need for restoring energy levels is even stronger. While one hour of alone time or friend time may work the rest of the year, two is probably needed now.
9.    Absorb. Nature tends to be the great equalizer in resetting emotions, thoughts, and senses. Take a few minutes every day to absorb the outdoors regardless of the weather. Just pausing to look at a tree can be extremely beneficial during this time.
10.  Silence. This should not be reserved for the movie theatre. A few moments of silence can bring a sense of peace and contentment. Use this time to be aware of emotions that rise to the surface and release any negativity.

The holidays can bring out the best and worst in most people.  This year, give yourself and other family members the best stress free version.

To schedule an appointment with Christine Hammond, please call our office at 407-647-7005.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Managing Grief Through the Holiday Season

By: Nancy Tikunoff, IMH
Ah, the holiday season is upon us. The celebrations of life and love with family and friends are ushered in from the harried pace of life with the Thanksgiving respite and much feasting. Close on its heels the attention turns to the Christmas season which, again, is closely associated with family, community and relationships. The merrymaking continues till the end of the year with one last hoorah for closing out the year and ringing in a new one. Again, times replete with gatherings of those we love who are an integral part of our lives.
But then something so unexpected (or maybe expected but nevertheless dreaded) occurs, an event that seems so out of keeping with the laughter, joy, activities and traditions that define the holiday season for us. The accident no one saw coming. The sudden, unexpected illness or a long-term battle with aging finally ends  omeone we love dies or it’s the anniversary of the death of someone that we love and miss dearly. They are no longer here to participate in all those things we enjoyed and found comfort in doing together at this season. All too quickly, what was a time of excitement, great memories and forward-looking good times has become lackluster at best and agonizing at its worst. All of a sudden, the beautiful turning colors of the fall leaves now just look like something that used to be alive, green leaves that have now died. The first chill in the air seems much colder than it used to be. The twinkling lights almost seem to be tears instead of bright, cheery decorations on the tree. Death has shown up uninvited and unwanted at a most inopportune time.

One of the most heart-rending experiences that I ever had was working with a Survivors of Suicide support group during the holiday season. I remember one person in particular had lost an adult child a few days earlier to a violent suicide. Her pain was so wrenching that she reminded me of the biblical story of Job, who sat mute, unable to even speak for a week due to his overwhelming, crushing pain. As much as she desired to sleep throughout the entire holiday season and be awakened when it was all over, she couldn’t. When a tragedy occurs, we must acknowledge that it has happened because life won’t let us do otherwise. Bereavement is a normal response to the death of someone we care about with feelings of sadness, tears and crying being appropriate reactions. Our beloved has transitioned to another address and we cannot bring them back or change the timing of their departure. Because the world doesn’t stop for us, even though it seems like it surely should, we have to keep moving even if it’s at a very slow pace. How does one survive the death or death anniversary of a beloved that has died during the holiday season? Here are a few ideas that hopefully will ease your journey through the holiday season, if not your pain.

Self-care is key.
You are vulnerable and it is time to handle yourself with care. Prepare as much as you are able to for going through all that the season entails. Activate your support system (family, friends, church members, neighbors, grief support groups) and call on them.
Being around family and friends
Pace yourself. Plan some time alone but also some time with others. A balance of both will probably meet your needs best.
Don’t be caught off guard if you are subjected to insensitive remarks or misguided actions of others. For example, people may treat you differently because your situation causes them discomfort. Your loss has reminded them of the uncomfortable fact that we are all vulnerable to loss just like you were.
If you were a couple, you may now find other couples uncomfortable sitting with you or inviting you to outings.
Plan to take your own vehicle. That way you can leave when you’ve had enough.
Arrange with the host/hostess beforehand a place you can go to be alone if you become overwhelmed.
Communicate your desires to guests. If it’s okay to sit in “his/her chair” invite others to do so. If you want to talk about the deceased, say so or do so.
Acknowledge the deceased’s missed absence; that there’s an empty place at the table this year but they will always be an important part of your life.
Initiate an activity to remember the beloved – have guests share a favorite memory of them or light a candle in their honor.
You have the option to do things differently this year – it’s okay to do so.
In making decisions about holiday decorating, do whatever you need or don’t need to do. If he/she always put up the tree and you just can’t bring yourself to get it out of storage, you don’t have to. Keep it simple by downsizing - maybe a table top tree will suffice this year. Families including grandchildren can respect your sadness and lack of desire to celebrate. If they don’t understand, most of them will give you grace and be able to get past it because of their love and respect for you. Your heart is broken and it’s okay to let that show.
The same rule applies for the expected traditional holiday meal that everyone is accustomed to enjoying. There’s no rule that says you can’t change things up this year – have the guests bring dishes instead of you doing all the cooking. Order the meal and have it prepared from a local grocery store or catering service. Create a new tradition this year – have Mexican or Italian food if it takes the sting out of the meal tradition for you. If family insists on having the usual decorations and meal preparation, then ask them to take care of it for you because you are not up to it.
Honor the deceased person.
There are a multitude of ways to incorporate the honored memory of the deceased into holiday celebrations.
- Attend a memorial. Many community agencies (funeral homes, hospice, hospital, churches) now offer annual remembrance services to honor deceased loved ones.
- Gift a donation in memory of your beloved rather than give gifts to each other.
- Create a tree ornament with “message gifts” that the loved one would have given if they were alive. For example, a small note inside an ornament that says “From John to Kim. I give you my love this year and wish you joy and happiness for the New Year. Always, John.”
Dose your grief.
Allow yourself to fully cry and grieve for 10 minutes during your day then go back to your activities. Feeling and experiencing the pain of grief is necessary for a complete healing; however the pain can be titrated or doled out in manageable pieces so that you are not constantly overwhelmed. While you don’t always have control over when emotions come crashing in, often times, you can. Take advantage of those times.
When Grief Goes Astray
Some types of death increase the pain of the loss because of the nature of the death. Situations such as death by suicide or homicide that involve the legal system or multiple losses at once in an accident or over a short period of time can complicate a person’s grief process. In addition, the sudden or violent nature of a loved one’s death can rock our world to the core. Bereavement is a normal response to a valued loss. However, if a grieving person finds that they are experiencing a deepening depression or wracked with unrelenting guilt or shame it is time to seek out professional assistance. Counseling and coaching will provide tools that can help you rediscover your equilibrium in life.

Some helpful resource links for you: (has a section regarding loss of pets) in military deaths/survivors)

About Nancy:  Having experienced a deep grief experience early in life as a result of the sudden, unexpected death of my boyfriend in a vehicle-train accident during the holiday season, I know the deep, prolonged sorrow that the death of a beloved can bring with the added pain of having it occur during the holidays. As such, I feel compassion for others of all ages who are on the grieving journey and I advocate for the bereaved to care for themselves well and allow their healing to take place at their own pace. If you find that you need professional assistance in your grief process, I would be privileged to assist you.
Nancy is a Registered Nurse, a Professional Life Coach and a therapist. She holds a Master’s Degree in Health and Wellness and a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing as well as a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling. Please contact Nancy by email to make an appointment at: or by calling 407-647-7005. You can read Nancy’s biography at under Blogs.