The holidays are often stressful times for many of us, but adding grief after the loss of a loved one can make this time of year feel particularly unbearable. For many, the message is: It’s the holidays, and we have a certain expectation of what that means, such as being happy, having a spotless perfectly decorated home, cooking large lavish meals, purchasing gifts which often includes extending ourselves beyond what we can really afford, and the list goes on.
Sometimes we spend the holidays with those we love, and sometimes we spend the holidays with family out of obligation rather than the true desire to be around them. Whatever our story is, grieving during the holidays can be harder than other times of the year (not indicating that it’s ever easy!). The children in our lives often see the holidays as the happiest time of the year and so we feel like we have to protect them and keep their innocence and special feelings for the holiday season intact. So, what are some things we can do if we are grieving or if we love someone who is struggling with the death of a loved one during this holiday season?
- Remember, you don’t have to do things the same as in the past.
- Focus on this year. What you choose to do this year doesn’t have to represent what you will do in future years.
- Have a clear plan, but if you need to deviate from your “plan” be okay with that.
- Don’t be hard on yourself for not being “yourself.”
- Be okay with saying NO or I don’t want to.
- Buy yourself something special that you think your loved one would have bought for you or wanted you to have.
- Take time out for yourself, sit or do whatever you need in that moment.
- Be present and check in with your kids. It’s okay to acknowledge as a family that the holidays can be a hard time.
- Talk as a family to determine what you would like to do this year and if there are any traditions you would like to change or new ones you would like to create.
- Make a donation to your loved ones favorite charity or do something in their honor.
- Ask for help… Everyone should have a personal helper during this time of year. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Some things you might want help with is cooking, cleaning, decorating, wrapping presents, shopping for gifts, sending cards or anything else on your list that seems taxing.
- Allow yourself to take time out to cry.
These are only a few of the things that came to my mind as I sit and try to write about something that often there are no words for. I do know I have heard many people over the years say many different things. Some people want to be alone, while others want to be surrounded by the ones they love. Like grief at any time of the year, everyone does it differently, and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. No matter your situation, the main message here is to be easy on yourself this holiday season.
If you are reading this because you love someone who is grieving, please be patient and follow their lead. We all realize how precious life is and how important it is to support each other in our grief. My hope is that everyone who reads this will find some peace this holiday season and will take the time to remember and reflect on the memories they hold on to of those that have gone before them.