Each year, the holidays are a time of joy and looking forward to the future in the new year. But you may dread them if you recently lost a family member, like I lost my mom this past July. With all the emphasis on togetherness and traditions during this time of the year, your heartache and loss may be magnified. If you are grieving, take away all the ‘shoulds’ about how you are to behave and realize that grief is individual and there are no ‘have to’s’ when it comes to one’s journey through grieving. So how do you or I get through the holidays while we are mourning? I am so glad you asked!
You Never Know What Might Make You Emotional
If you are like me, you might be surprised at what causes a wave of grief to crash over you. If I hear Andy Williams’ ‘Happy Holidays,’ my mom’s favorite, all bets are off during the holidays. For you, it may be a family gathering, the smell of baked pies, or a holiday commercial that brings your loved one to mind. If you expect those things to happen, you may be able to soften the blow that they have on you.
Let Grief Happen
Showing your sorrow is normal and healthy, so surround yourself with family and friends who love you and know how to read you and your emotions. If you or I feel like getting away by ourselves, taking a break from gatherings, do it, and gather yourself. Also, expect that feelings of joy and grief can follow back to back and don’t feel guilty about those moments of happiness; your loved one wouldn’t want you to not find joy in such a special season.
New Traditions Can Help You Through the Season
Sometimes changing things up is the right thing to do, if just for this first year or for years to come. For instance, if your mom hosted the Christmas dinner, choose to go out to dinner. Maybe next year you can host, or you can pick another restaurant. If staying too close to the past brings you sorrow, do something different.
Create a Special Tribute
This Christmas will be the first one without my mom, so I had a special ornament made with a picture of her, adding her to my holiday. You may want to do a mini-tree in your house with old ornaments from your loved one or do an act of service like work at a homeless shelter in memory of your loved one. You can also make your loved one’s favorite dish for the holiday dinner to honor your memories. Tributes can become a special part of healing.
If You Don’t Feel Like Doing It…Don’t!
Each Christmas, do you always put up a huge tree that takes time and energy? If so, and you don’t feel like being that ‘into’ the season, don’t! You likely have limited energy right now anyway, so don’t force yourself to do something that doesn’t bring you joy and you may feel different about what you want to do next year, and that is OK.
Know When You May Need Help
If this holiday season you feel stuck and can’t sleep, eat, or get out of bed, get some professional help; it’s not weakness to admit we need a shoulder to lean on during dark times. Your bestie may not be able to help with the depths of your sadness, so a therapist can offer you a different perspective. Remember, brighter days are ahead, but you may need a little help to find the peace that comes with healing and with the season.