It seems like every year the holiday season gets longer. Stores start putting out Christmas decorations before we’ve even moved past Halloween, and it seems like the holidays go on for months and months. For those who are grieving, it can feel like an eternity. How will you make it through the holidays this year? Decide on a course of action, and follow some simple guidelines.
1. Make your own plans. You get to decide whether to keep holiday traditions or create new ones, and you can do as much or as little as you want to do. Be assertive about events held in your own home, letting your loved ones know ahead of time what changes you are making to the holiday celebrations. If you’re going somewhere else to celebrate, make sure to take your own car so that you aren’t stuck waiting for someone else to be ready to leave. You need to be able to leave if you become uncomfortable or just want to be home.
2. Allow yourself to feel. It’s ok to be sad when everyone else is celebrating. Don’t resist joy if it presents itself, but don’t feel guilty for experiencing negative emotions. Your grief experience is your own, and whatever you feel, be it sadness, guilt, anger, or joy, is part of that unique experience.
3. Accept support. This may mean surrounding yourself with friends and family, or it may mean talking about your feelings with one trusted person. It can also mean reaching out for professional help, whether that means attending a support group or a service of remembrance, or seeking counseling.
4. Make room for memories. The holidays can be a nostalgic time, even for those who haven’t suffered a loss. If you allow them to, your memories may be a helpful part of your healing process. Share your memories of your loved one with others by telling stories and looking at photo albums. You can also make a memory box with photos of the person you’ve lost, and notes from family and friends. Consider memorializing your loved one in your holiday celebration, perhaps by setting an extra place at the table or lighting a special candle.
5. Reach out to others. Sometimes it can be very healing to help someone else. Find ways to connect with those around you by giving of your time, talents and resources. You might invite a guest to dinner who might otherwise be alone, or you might “adopt” a needy family for the holiday. You could also give a donation in memory of your loved one, or provide flowers or other decorations to your place of worship. Being generous with others helps you as you’re helping them, and can ease the pain of your grief.
If you need help dealing with grief this holiday season, we are here to help. We can provide resources, from recommended reading, to support groups, to counseling, to help you find your way through the grief and onto the path toward healing. Contact us today to learn more about what we have to offer. And above all, we hope you have a meaningful holiday season.