Despite what most people think, not everyone looks forward to the holidays. Losing someone through death may create dread as the holiday season approaches. This is often the case for the bereaved, as holidays tend to magnify the feelings of loss. It is important and quite natural to experience the sadness especially felt at this time of year.
Whatever your holiday traditions or beliefs may be, keeping a positive memory of your loved one can help to lessen your sadness. While no one can take away the pain completely, there are some things you can do to make the holidays less stressful. Here are a few suggestions to hopefully assist you in taking positive steps to feel better not only during the holiday season but through the New Year as well as you move ahead.
Realize this year will be different. You can’t change that, so be careful not to set expectations too high for yourself. Expecting things to be the same or go a particular way will likely lead to disappointment.
Plan ahead. Don’t let the holidays surprise you and cause added anxiety. Prioritize what needs to be done and decide which things you can let go of. Think ahead. Sit down with your family and talk through what you want to do for the holiday season. Do only what each family member can comfortably handle. Family get-togethers can be extremely difficult, so be honest with each other about your feelings. There is no right or wrong way to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow family traditions, while others may choose to do something new or different.
Set limits for yourself. Do only those things that are very special or important to you. What you choose to do the first year, you do not have to do the following year. Try to find a balance. Spend time with others, but also find time to be alone with your thoughts and memories.
Some additional ideas to consider:
Start a new tradition such as donating in your loved one’s memory or lighting a candle in honor of your loved one.
Include the deceased in your conversations and celebrations. Once others realize you are comfortable talking about your loved one, they may share stories that will add to your pleasant memories.
Hang a stocking for your loved one in which people can put notes with their thoughts or feelings.
Change the times, locations, and/or menus of traditional meals if thought to be helpful or replace a traditional holiday dinner at home with dining out perhaps.
Decorate differently; let someone else decorate; decorate exactly the same way as usual, or don’t decorate at all.
Break large tasks into small pieces. Do not be afraid to ask for help.
If you wish to go away for the holidays, do so. This year do what is right for you. Remember that although your grief will always be with you, it is possible to find joy and hope.
Attending religious services can reconnect you with a community that may offer help and support, as well as the spiritual assistance you once had. Meeting with a spiritual advisor or clergy for additional support or guidance can help us get through this difficult time.
Do something for yourself…it’s okay! Purchase some small thing you always wanted or do something you have never done before. It’s okay to enjoy a simple pleasure.
Help someone else. Helping someone else may give meaning to your loss. Focusing on others during the holidays can be both a welcome distraction for you and a blessing to others.