Without our loved ones the holidays aren’t the same. For most of us, holidays are hard for years after our loss. Here are some tips for coping with holiday grief making this time of year less emotional, lonely and challenging.
Listen to Your Heart
Embrace the holiday traditions you find meaningful; and feel free to create new traditions, especially ones which will keep your loved one’s memory and legacy alive. Don’t do more than you want and don’t do anything that does not feel comfortable, including decorating, making holiday dinners and sending out cards.
Take Care of Yourself
Try to exercise, eat healthfully, get enough sleep, and do things which call to your soul. For some that may be coloring, writing in a journal, taking a nature walk or reading a book; for others it may mean connecting with friends, getting a massage or seeing a movie. Grieving is hard work! It impacts us physically and cognitively, as well as emotionally and makes it harder for us to concentrate and remember things– so don’t forget to make time for YOU.
Have an Escape Plan
If you are invited to a party, let the host know in advance that you may not stay the entire time. Consider driving yourself so you can leave if you feel trapped. Be willing to give up things which may be stressful, and give yourself permission to decide— or change your mind— at the last minute.
Develop— and Train— a Support Network
Being with people who care about us is healing, especially if they can say our loved one’s name and listen to us cry without trying to fix us, or fix the situation.
But many people are so afraid of saying the wrong thing or doing something to upset us that they often disappear right when we need them the most, which is hurtful. Its up to us to be their teachers; don’t be afraid to reach out and let people know what you need and how they can help.
Focus on What You Have, Not What You’ve Lost
While this is easier said than done, we can try to stay grounded in gratitude by looking for the blessings in every situation; being kind; seeking connection; reaching out in love and friendship to others; and celebrating our loved one’s legacy.
Joanne Fink is an award-winning designer, calligrapher, bereavement advocate, and author of WHEN YOU LOSE SOMEONE YOU LOVE.