Well, it's hard to believe it's that time of year again, but I have already given a lecture on "Coping with the Holidays" for a local residential home and passed out some info at our support group last night, so I think it's fair to share the same info here.
The holiday season can be a difficult time of year for people who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Instead of the bustling happiness that may seem to surround you, you may be experiencing feelings of dread, anxiety and overwhelming sadness. Here are some suggestions and tips that you may find helpful in getting you through this time of year.
Prepare yourself. Try to give some thought to the challenges that may await you in the holiday season. Think about what you will say when an invitation to a party comes your way. Plan an answer for when the family asks if you will still host the traditional holiday feast at your home. You may want to participate in holiday events and you may want to continue with holiday family traditions; but it perfectly acceptable for you to not want to participate as well. You may want to suggest making new family traditions.
Know your limitations. Don’t give in to family and social pressure. Learn to say no. You are the only one that knows how much energy you have to deal with, “going to a party”, “baking cookies”, “decorating the house”, “keeping up with family traditions.” Again, doing these things may make you feel better, but be kind to yourself – if you don’t think you’re up for it – say “no.” Or say “yes”but make it clear that it will be tentative, based on how you feel when you wake up that morning!
Holiday emotions. It’s ok to feel sad during this holiday season and it’s ok to feel happy. Go with the flow. If you want to cry – cry. If you need to talk about your loss with someone – find that someone. If you find yourself having fun – go with it, don’t guilt over it. Laughing is healing.
Holiday chores. If you must do some of these chores, here are some suggestions:
Shopping – Pick a time when there are less crowds. If you don’t want to go alone, take a friend or family member with you. Try catalog or on-line shopping.
Sending cards or letters – Try to shorten the mailing list.
Getting a Tree – If you decide to get a tree, try getting a smaller one, or a tabletop version.
Consider participating in a ritual. Rituals can be healing and a therapeutic way to honor our loved ones. Rituals can include lighting a candle, playing a special song or listening to special music, reading or writing poetry, etc. Other ideas are to give gifts on behalf of your loved one as a way of honoring and remembering them. You can also spend some time reflecting on the "gifts" your loved one has given you in the past.
If you find that you are alone for the holidays and would like to do something meaningful, there are always volunteer opportunities where you can focus on the spiritual and giving aspects of the season.
Just remember that you know yourself better than anyone else. You know what you can and cannot handle. Please be gentle with yourself.
Until next week,
P.S. If you have found this posting or previous postings helpful, please consider making a donation to The Bereavement Center. We are a non-profit organization that serves the community, and we operate solely on donations from families, clients and the community. As always, your donation will be greatly appreciated and acknowledged.