This time of the year is supposed to be joyful and merry. Commercial ads in the media show us the happy family: all sitting together by the fireplace on Christmas Eve, eating cookies and drinking hot chocolate. Presents are stockpiled under the Christmas tree and we hear the pitter-patter of little feet, anxious and anticipating the arrival of Santa. With 24 hours of Christmas songs on the radio and all your favorite holiday shows on TV, it’s hard to avoid the holiday season. It’s all around us.
It’s also hard to be joyful and merry when we lose a loved one, especially due to sudden and tragic deaths. The first year is the toughest: getting through all the ‘firsts’. First birthday, first Halloween, and first Christmas. Christmas always seems to be the hardest, especially when everyone around us is not only happy, but completely oblivious to our sadness. Like the world forgot about us. This often leaves us feeling lost and alone which can easily lead to depression and unhealthy thoughts.
When some one passes away in tight-knit communities like Six Nations and New Credit, we all realize that grief doesn’t just touch the families and friends of our dearly departed, it affects the entire community. And it’s especially in times like these, that we need to come together as a community and help each other get through the tough times.
The Two Row Times asked a couple of community members to comment on grief and offer words of advice on how to cope in healthy ways during the holidays:
Wendy Hill, (Cayuga Nation) had this to say, “I have dealt with death of a dear loved one during Christmas. The 10-day feast fell on Christmas Eve and that was the hardest Christmas I ever felt. I had a daughter so I still tried to be present and keep going and give her a good holiday. So sometimes there are people not okay with the holidays and we should be aware of this. Sometimes it’s one of the hardest times to experience.
This is why it’s one of the holidays with high suicide rates. When family ties have been severed it’s a realization of not having the ideal family unit. The advice I give to people at this time is to find those friends or family that you do have a good relationship with and spend time with them.
Also try to do activities that bring joy and fun memories for you. For myself I liked to sleigh ride in my childhood, so this is something I try to continue with my family as well as skating. Playing in the snow or just going to visit. If you have friends or family members who are struggling with depression or who have no family, invite them over or stop in and gift them with your company or a gift. It could make a huge difference. Sometimes it’s just the invite to a dinner that can change someone’s thoughts of taking their life or going further into depression.
This is time for telling the history and stories to stir up the strength and hope in ourselves to continue on in life. The winter comes from the north, grandfather/guardian, and it’s symbolic of elderly stage of life. It’s a difficult time in life, and so many people feel the difficult time but only for a few months.
It’s a time of life when we look back at how we have treated our bodies, family, community, we will see if we were good to them or not because this is when we become vulnerable again, like a child and we are dependent on others. It’s also a time for our mother, the earth, to rest and be quiet. Also, it’s the winter solstice so our mother and grandmother the moon are given a lot of time this day. It’s a strong day for the women energy. After this day, the male energy of the sun starts to visit more hours with us.
But the stories are supposed to be told while everything is resting and listening to see if we remember and still honour our ancestors and their journey. This is also a time to look back at this year and improve how you did this past year. Appreciating the good that you have done and what others have done for you. This is the purpose of our midwinter ceremonies, to bring people together and dance and celebrate this past year and pray and hope for the coming year.”
Sakoieta Widrick (Mohawk Nation), believes that, “Grief, loss and mourning are necessary for our bodies to psychologically accept that there has been a change in our sense of reality. Some one or something that was there is no longer there. It is important for the body to accept that if it is ever going to move on and pick up life and living.
Holidays are often hard because those are times when we usually had contact with those people who are now no longer with us. It is good to remember them with a special little type of remembrance ceremony and also to do that with new friends, creating something special with them as well.
It is necessary when there has been a loss to grieve over it and come to accept it and then find a way to move on so we don’t let our grieving get us stuck. We also need to recognize that we will never get over the loss only come to accept it, but with the empty hole that loss has created we need to fill that with something else.”
To acknowledge everyone in our community who have lost a loved one over the years to tragic and sudden deaths and to those who feel that our loved ones simply left us way too soon, we, at Two Row Times are sending you all a BIG bundle of strength, love, and support during this holiday season.