For some, this season is full of joy, anticipation and excitement. Certainly family gatherings, cooking, baking, creative costumes and shopping for gifts bring a smile to many children and adults alike. Grief, however does not take a holiday even with all the colorful and cheerful distractions.
We all have family traditions that define how we celebrate this time of year. After the death of a loved one, the holiday season may not feel or look the same. Traditions and rituals may bring a tear or sadness rather than joy or peace.
Our challenge becomes to find what brings us comfort in the midst of our mourning. These tips may help as you find what works for you.
Tip 1: Begin with understanding that the holidays will be different this year. Adjusting to life without your loved one can drain energy and increase emotional reactions. Be prepared for a chain reaction of memories and emotions that may be triggered by a favorite song or cherished ornament. Find a person, family or friend who can listen as you reminisce through your tears.
Tip 2: Be kind to yourself by getting plenty of rest. Grief brings on fatigue and limits your physical and emotional resources.
Tip 3: Let your family know what brings you comfort and peace. Attending gatherings, parties and get-togethers may bring more discomfort. After the loss of a loved one, it is usual for people to experience a sense of yearning or searching for the person who has died. This creates some restlessness, not wanting to be alone yet, but not wanting to be with anyone.
Tip 4: Do what makes you comfortable, not what well-meaning friends or others think you should do. Negotiate with family and friends about what gatherings you will attend and for how long. We are all unique and our grief needs are unique. You may find it helpful to take your own car so you can leave when you are ready, or stay if you choose.
Tip 5: Talk to your family and discuss how you will observe the holidays this year. Traditions can be very comforting. You may wish to observe some family traditions and forgo others for now. You can always pick them up again later.
Tip 6: Consider a new tradition, in memory of your loved one. Some families wrap and give each other mementoes or small reminders of their loved ones.
Tip 7: Allow friends and family to help when they offer. Learn to say “Yes.”
Tip 8: Ask for help when you need it. Let others say, “Yes.”
Tip 9: Take time for yourself. Quiet, introspective time allows you to find your inner strength for coping.
Tip 10: Lastly, set realistic goals for yourself. And reserve the right to change your mind at the last minute.
Know that we do not get over grief, we go through grief. Remember your loved one by sharing stories with your family, and remembering the gifts they brought to you that will always be with you.
by Valerie Sanchez, LCSW, CT – Director of Bereavement & Integrated Therapies