For anyone dealing with the death of a loved one, the holidays can be a time of sadness, dread, or pain. It can be difficult to cope, especially when you see the sights and sounds of holiday happiness all around you. One of the best things you can do is give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. Try not feel pressure that you have to feel a certain way or do certain things in order to make the holiday “normal.” If you feel sad, allow the tears to come; if you feel angry, allow yourself to vent to a friend. In other words, offer yourself some grace during this holiday season.
If you are grieving a loved one, set realistic expectations for yourself during the holiday season and acknowledge that the first holiday season is difficult. Often people find it helpful to prepare in advance by making specific plans and obtaining the support that you need. Decide if you can still handle the responsibilities you’ve had in the past. Examine your traditions and events of celebrating and ask yourself if you want to continue them. Take others up on offers to bake, shop, gift wrap, and decorate. Consider shopping by phone, Internet or catalogs this year. Listen to your heart and do what feels right to you.
To deal with their feelings of grief, some people like to help others in large or small ways during the holiday season. You can purchase a gift for a child in need, volunteer at a community organization, or donate to your favorite non-profit. Consider volunteering at a hospital, hospice, or homeless shelter. You can also find a way to help another family member or friend who may need it. Any of these things can prove cathartic and help in your healing process. This can help you feel like you are contributing to the greater good and potentially ease some of the pain from your loss.
The most important thing to remember is there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holiday season after the death of a loved one. Some people like to create new rituals and traditions.
Examples of new rituals and traditions include:
· Lighting a candle in honor of your loved one.
· Putting a bouquet of flowers on your holiday table in memory of your loved one.
· Visiting the cemetery and decorate the memorial site with holiday decorations.
· Having a moment of silence during a holiday toast to honor your loved one.
· Playing your loved one’s favorite music or favorite game.
· Planning a meal with your loved ones’ favorite foods.
Holidays are often challenging for children who are grieving. Don’t pretend your family has not experienced a loss. Imagining that nothing has happened does not make the pain of losing a loved one go away, nor does it make the holidays easier to endure for children. Tell your child that you also miss the person who died and you are sad that things can’t be the way they were before the person died. Children may need to hear this in order to feel it is permissible to discuss their own feelings. Even though holiday memories involving the person who died may be painful, they can also be comforting. It is okay to talk about what you have lost and what the holidays mean to you.