Being Present during the Holidays is a revised article “Advocating During the Holidays” written by Vanessa Luna-Marquez, Program Manager, MADD West Texas, El Paso from December 2012 published in The Victim’s Informer
Turkey roasting in the oven, the Thanksgiving parade, the football games, and the family prayer, decorating the Christmas tree, the crackling fire from the fireplace, lighting the Hanukkah candles, kissing a loved one at midnight, and making plans for the upcoming year. The holidays are here. The description painted above may be a wonderful picture for many, but for victims of crime whose loved one was killed, some may have a very different image of the holidays. For some victims the holidays bring a range of emotions that can include anxiety, anger, sadness, and fear. Instead of celebrating with their loved one, they now have to experience an empty chair at the holiday dinner table.
As a family member or a friend, it can be your role to support your family member or friend.
It is especially important to provide support during special days, like birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays.
Support groups, remembrance programs, information, and referrals can be a resource of healing for victims of crime. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) offers Celebration of Life – Candlelight Vigils before the holidays. MADD’s vigils were designed to remember the victims and survivors of impaired driving and hit and run crashes, and to support their families. Candlelight Vigils also alert the public to the realities of impaired driving and express hope for a nation without drunk driving. It is not a coincidence that the Candlelight Vigils are scheduled near the holidays. Candlelight Vigils are a special opportunity for families to remember and honor their loved ones as we approach the holiday season. They offer families a special setting in which to say, “We love you. We miss you. We will never forget; and as we begin to celebrate the holidays, you are in our thoughts and in our hearts.” In El Paso, the vigil is scheduled for Thursday, November 30 and in Lubbock on December 1. Please contact the MADD office for more information at 915 779 1987 or 806 793 6233.
During the holidays, providing reading resources as a gift that will be thoughtful and may also be beneficial and supportive. Some suggested readings are “A Decembered Grief – Living with Loss While Other are Celebrating” by Harold Ivan Smith or The Empty Chair: Handling Grief on Holidays and Special Occasions by Susan J. R.N., Ed.D Zonnebelt-Smeenge Ed.D, Robert C. De Vries. These books have numerous suggestions specifically targeted toward coping with grief during the holidays. Some great suggestions include “alter-rather than abandon-traditions” and “create ornaments or decorations that symbolize your loved one.”
You can also provide support in other ways by making a telephone call, sending an e-mail or holiday card with a personal message and sharing a memory of your loved one or friend.
As a friend or family member it is important to remember that the holidays have different meanings and feelings for victims after their victimization and death of their loved one. In your telephone call, e-mail or card, acknowledge that you realize the holidays might be extremely difficult. Let them know they are not alone; share that you are available to provide support.
You can also connect them with helpful resources, such as a helpline or an information sheet for coping with the holidays from MADD.
MADD Helpline: (877) MADD-HELP | www.madd.org