Dealing with Grief During the Holidays
Grief is a hot topic these days. Every newspaper and blog seems to have advice on how to get through the holidays. Where are they the rest of the year?
Rather than add to the noise, I’ve scoured the web to share some of the better articles and lists on dealing with grief during the holidays.
What none of them say is that the anticipation of the holiday is almost always worse than the reality. The day itself is a day that can be hard but not nearly as hard as the string of days and weeks leading it up to it.
Good counsel: Grieving during the holidays
Keep things as simple as possible. Limit activities to the ones which are the most meaningful and enjoyable for you and your family.
While keeping some (or all) of your holiday traditions is comforting, you may also want to create new traditions that bring meaning to your life as it is now.
Don’t get caught up in the shoulds. In grief, there are no shoulds. What you should do is what feels best for you — even if it means going away for the holidays.
For the grieving, Christmas is hard work
The purpose and meaning of life events have changed. A new meaning must be born where new practices begin.
We grieve not only the person who has died; we grieve the life we lived with our loved one. There are many fears and much pain as the season approaches.
Fear of preparations such as shopping, the holiday parties, the cooking, the Christmas music, sending out the greeting cards and seeing friends can all be disturbing for the grieving person. If you are the parent of a child who has died, it is difficult but wise to maintain some of the traditions for the siblings, for you and for the grandparents of the child.
from Ottawa Citizen
Memorialize the loss of our loved one. This tangible acknowledgement of their life can be very comforting. There are many ways to do this:
-Donate time or money to a charity in their name.
- Look through photo albums and/or create a scrapbook.
-Plant a tree.
-Prepare their favorite food.
-Visit the cemetery.
-Hang a memorial ornament on your Christmas tree.
-Light a candle.
-Have a prayer service.
-Write a letter to our loved one.
-Gather together family & friends to share stories and memories of our loved one.
Grief: Coping with the holidays
My favorite holiday story is that of a woman who told me she decorated her Christmas tree with her mother’s costume jewelry. That tribute must have been a spectacular and dazzling sight.
Here’s a list of suggestions we offer in the bereavement center.
- Plan ahead.
- Do what you want, not what you feel you should do.
- Surround yourself with those who are supportive and understanding.
- Lower your expectations during the holiday season.
- Allow someone else to do the baking, cooking and decorating this year.
- If you go to an event, take your own car so that you can leave when you choose.
- Shop using catalogs or the Internet or don’t shop at all this year!
I have always encouraged folks to take their own car to events throughout the year so they can make an early departure. Now I add, park in the street so your car doesn’t get blocked in the driveway. There’s nothing like trying making a quick getaway when you have to ask 3 people to move their car!
The following are some suggestions for turning in to our pain and finding growth and spiritual union:
- Journal – This act of expression can be powerfully helpful in pushing out the swirling confusion of emotions so that they become workable.
- Engage in meaningful ritual – Light a candle in honor of your loved one, set an extra place at the holiday table, go to your loved one’s resting place, make a donation in your loved one’s name or any other activity that helps guide you toward peace.
- Take care of your health – This time of year, with the added burden of grief, can be extremely stressful, and it is important to attend to our physical health. Make sure to drink lots of water and eat healthy food.
- Move your body – Take a walk in the fresh crisp air, do yoga or any other physical activity that engages your body and mind.
- Practice mindful walking – notice each step and connect to Mother Earth. Notice your breath, breathing in peace and nourishment, breathing out stress and pain. Feel that sense of peace and nourishment and letting go of stress and pain first for yourself, and then for all others (which is everyone!) who are experiencing pain and suffering.
- Give yourself a gift that your loved one wanted for you, whether a material gift or a gift of relaxation, such as a massage.
- Spend time in nature, with compassionate friends, and schedule “dates” with yourself, treating yourself kindly as a friend.
Dealing with grief, loss during holidays
Finally, give yourself permission to be happy. It’s OK to feel good. Feeling good and laughing is your body’s way of letting you relax and let go of stress. This is a normal, healthy reaction. If you enjoy yourself at times, you are not being disrespectful to the memory of your loved one.
P.S. Need help during the holidays…and everyday? It’s not too late to order How to Survive Your Grief When Someone You Love Has Died