The holidays are here. No matter what you celebrate, this time of year may bring new or continued challenges while you are grieving a loved one, a pet, loss of a job, or circumstances leaving you wishing it was different. Our emotions can be magnified as the season comes upon us.
And, I always want to begin with a reminder there is no right or wrong way to experience and express your grief. No two people are the same so no two reactions to loss are the same. There is no need to compare your responses to those of others nor allow another person to dictate how you are walking down the path of grief and loss.
Holidays are made diﬃcult for many of us for a myriad of reasons. Most often, after we have experienced a loss, we feel sorrow over not only our loss, but what it means to our joyous celebrations.
Because holidays are filled with gatherings, rituals, and memories, it may be diﬃcult to understand how you can not only survive, but find enjoyment at this time of the year. After losing my husband, it took me several years to find any pleasure or interest in the holidays. Because of my experience, I want to share some ideas and strategies you can use to minimize your pain and, maybe, even find contentment when you are in this season.
First, acknowledge the holidays might be diﬃcult for you. Allowing kindness in your situation is an important step in giving yourself permission to grieve. After you accept grace, here are some ideas to consider:
✦ Set realistic expectations for yourself. Know that you may or may not feel like you have in the past and you don’t have to do everything you did before now.
✦ Feel your emotions. We can’t heal unless we feel. So cry all those tears, express your sorrow, or scream out that anger (not at another person, however). Give yourself ample time to experience and recover from what is happening inside your mind and body.
✦ Surround yourself with people you love.
✦ Allow or ask others to help. You don’t have to take it all on.
✦ Plan in advance and then have alternatives. Look at invitations to events and decide what you will attend. Think about who will take on the roles of the departed such as carving the turkey or making the pies. If you get to the event and you just can’t stay or fulfill a role (new or in the past), you don’t have to push yourself. You can go to the party and let the host know you may make it 5 minutes or 5 hours. Or, you can ask someone in advance to be prepared to step in for you if you get overwhelmed.
✦ Create a new tradition.
✦ Light a candle in honor of your loved one
✦ Place flowers on the table as a remembrance
✦ Set a chair with a picture of your loved one at the table
✦ Play your loved one’s favorite music
✦ Serve your loved one’s favorite dish
✦ Write an online tribute
✦ Share stories about your loved one, pet or job.
If you know someone who is grieving, there are gestures you can oﬀer that will bring comfort. And, don’t forget children during this time. Because children are resilient and don’t grieve the same as adults, it is easy to overlook their need for nurturing. So what can you do?
✦ Just “be” with the bereaved. You don’t have to say or do anything
– your presence is more than enough. Time is the most valuable gift.
✦ Rather than ask what they need in a general way, be specific in how you can help. For instance ask, “What can I pick up for you at the store today?”, “What meal can I bring to help with the holiday?”, or “When can I come and help you wrap your gifts?”.
✦ Invite and initiate time with the bereaved by asking them to events or simply to coﬀee or lunch
✦ Talk about the person by name or the loss they have experienced to validate and show that there is meaning to their suffering.
In closing, whether we are grieving or we know someone who is, placing no judgment on how the other person is contending with their sorrow is paramount. Allowing the space to acknowledge feelings is key in coping with the holidays. And, although it may feel like you won’t make it, I promise that if you take the season moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day, you will be proud of yourself because you were able to walk that path. Grief never ends, it is love.
Journey with me, Julianne