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Anniversay of Mom's Death is
During the Holidays

QUESTION: My mom died last year, around this time, and even though my husband and kids have been very supportive, I'm really dreading the holidays. Do you have any suggestions to help me get through them without falling apart?

Mourning is natural during this time, which is the anniversary of your mother's passing. Your grief carries the seeds of transformation. What your mother was to you, can now become a part of you. And the fact that you grieve her loss means she was a woman of great value to the person that you are today. Mourning her can help you transform her memory into a daily piece of your soul. And with this process, your memory of your mother will eventually become "lighter," but no less endearing.

Mothers are the initial link to life. And their passing can bring up feelings of rootlessness and vast emptiness. Particularly during the Christmas holiday because it is a time of family focus, childhood memories and appreciation for those we love.

Light a candle for your mother on Christmas eve. Perhaps each family member can share a story about her life and how she touched each one of you. Give her spirit a rightful place in your family's ongoing history. But do not stop there! Embrace and celebrate her grandchildren who carry a part of her forward into the generations to come. And continue the family traditions that will represent your great grandchildren's inheritance.

If you feel a greater need to mourn your mother and do not want to eclipse your family celebration with too much sorrow, consider an additional separate ritual (sharing) with your siblings, or aunts and uncles who may have been your mother's peers. Take time to talk with them by phone, schedule a dinner with a sibling or aunt who can share your memories and digest the passage of life and time together.

Consider reaching out to other friends or relatives who lost a parent and ask them how they handled the initial holidays after their loss. Write a letter or poem to your mother. Or honor her memory privately in some way that feels genuine to you. By making a place for your feelings rather than trying to avoid them, you may find that you can bring more of your energy to your family when it is their time to share their love, joy and gifts with you.

Allow the glimpses of joy and true celebration for life to arise spontaneously through your sorrow. It is unlikely that you will find yourself "falling apart" if you make room to express -- rather than repress -- your feelings of sadness. Take care to provide yourself appropriate opportunity to release grief and share your mother's passing. Accepting the emptiness is the first step in freeing you of dread.

This holiday season is a transitional one for you. Remember, too, that while you have lost a mother, your children have lost a grandmother. The baton is being passed. You will probably be a grandmother yourself someday! Do not resist the flow of change. Invite the tides of time to pass through you this holiday season. Your rootlessness will inevitably yield to deeper grounding and an establishment of yourself as the "next" generation.

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Gayle Peterson, MSSW, LCSW, PhD is a family therapist specializing in prenatal and family development. She trains professionals in her prenatal counseling model and is the author of An Easier Childbirth, Birthing Normally and her latest book, Making Healthy Families. Her articles on family relationships appear in professional journals and she is an oft-quoted expert in popular magazines such as Woman's Day, Mothering and Parenting. . She also serves on the advisory board for Fit Pregnancy Magazine.

Dr. Gayle Peterson has written family columns for ParentsPlace.com, igrandparents.com, the Bay Area's Parents Press newspaper and the Sierra Foothill's Family Post. She has also hosted a live radio show, "Ask Dr. Gayle" on www.ivillage.com, answering questions on family relationships and parenting. Dr. Peterson has appeared on numerous radio and television interviews including Canadian broadcast as a family and communications expert in the twelve part documentary "Baby's Best Chance". She is former clinical director of the Holistic Health Program at John F. Kennedy University in Northern California and adjunct faculty at the California Institute for Integral Studies in San Francisco. A national public speaker on women's issues and family development, Gayle Peterson practices psychotherapy in Oakland, California and Nevada City, California. She also offers an online certification training program in Prenatal Counseling and Birth Hypnosis. Gayle and is a wife, mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother of three lively boys and one sparkling granddaughter..

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