Hope And The Holidays…Coping With Grief
The holidays can be an especially difficult time for those who have experienced the death of a loved one. As others anticipate festivities with family and friends, feelings of loss are often magnified as we become acutely aware of the void in our lives.
Each of us deals with loss and grief in our own particular way. However, there are things we can do to cope, remember loved ones, and even celebrate the holidays.
Take time to care for yourself. Family and social demands can be overwhelming, so consider your stress and energy level when making choices about what you can or can’t do this year. Don’t expect too much of yourself; grief is emotionally, physically, and psychologically draining. Be sure to get plenty of rest, eat a nutritious diet, exercise, and adjust your pace.
Collaborate with family members. Discuss the best way to meet everyone’s needs. It is important to acknowledge that the holidays aren’t going to be the same. Share your feelings, respect each other’s choices, and consider compromises so family members can deal with the loss in their own way.
Give yourself permission to do things differently. Perhaps this is the year to cut back on elaborate holiday decorations. You may decide to change the time you share a meal, attend a worship service or open gifts. Remember that you don’t have to make the same choices next year.
Children also experience grief. They may have big questions or feel guilty about looking forward to a holiday. “Will we still have Christmas or Hanukkah?” “ Is it okay to feel happy?” Because you seem sad, they may think that they should be sad too.
Share memories… even through the tears. Let them know that it is alright to say the person’s name and talk about them. Discuss holiday plans and get them involved. Knowing what to expect relieves stress for children. Helping with decorating, making crafts, or cooking will give them a sense of control.
Recognize your loved one’s presence in the family. Embrace your memories and find comfort in them. Sharing anecdotes and favorite stories can bring your loved one into the holiday season with you. Commemorative events and rituals such as lighting a special candle, observing a moment of silence or creating a special memento can solidify memories in a positive way.
Give yourself and your family permission to enjoy the holidays. Regaining your ability to smile and laugh is not a betrayal of your loved one. Don’t feel guilty if you find you are enjoying yourself. Take time to love and be loved. This is the real gift of the holiday season.
There is no special formula to make the holidays easier for those who are grieving. Taking care of yourself, planning ahead, and deciding what is most comfortable for you and your family will help manage expectations and offer hope for the holidays.