Can you believe that it is that time of the year again, yes it’s Holiday Season. This is normally a joyous time full of love, laughter, and family. But that is not the case for everyone. This time of the year can also trigger emotions of loneliness, hurt, sadness, and pain due to the loss of a loved one and that is what we call Grief. Just recently, I hosted and facilitated my very first Grief & Faith Workshop and it was an honor and privilege to educate people about such a sensitive and needed topic. We went over coping skills, stages of grief, and what grief looks like in children, and so much more. My goal is to have an annual workshop centered around this topic with other speakers, hands on coping skills, and support. To read about the different types of grief check out my blog from last year here.
I have also shared openly in previous YouTube videos here, on how I lost my mother at the age of 11 and how that has been a journey of healing for myself and my siblings. With all of that being said I really wanted to offer some tips on ways to cope with grief during the holidays. Check them out below:
Set realistic expectations for yourself. I know that some people may have a hard time accepting help but now is the time to accept help from friends and loved ones. Take others up on offers to cook, shop, decorate, etc. Consider shopping by phone, Internet, or catalogs, this year to avoid being overwhelmed.
Surround yourself with people who love and support you. If you are an introvert and/or enjoy solitude be intentional about spending time with friends and loved ones. This will boost your mood and prevent the thoughts of, “I am by myself” when this truly may not be the case.
Try to avoid “canceling” the holiday altogether despite the temptation. It is OK to avoid some circumstances that you don’t feel ready to handle, but don’t isolate yourself. Allow yourself some time for solitude, remembering and grieving, but balance it with planned activities with others.
Allow yourself to feel joy, sadness, anger – allow yourself to grieve. It is important to recognize that every family member has his/her own unique grief experience and may have different needs related to celebrating the holidays. No one way is right or wrong. Experiencing joy and laughter does not mean you have forgotten your loved one.
Draw comfort from doing for others. Consider giving a donation or gift in memory of you loved one. Invite a guest who might otherwise be alone for the holidays. Adopt a needy family or person during the holiday season. Some areas such as the mall may have angel tree where you can select a child that is need to buy gifts for. If you are tight on funds, just simply give a Holiday Card you have created or from the Dollar Store. No act of kindness is insignificance it’s the heart of the matter that counts. Giving does boost your spirits, research it and you will see.
Take care of yourself. Avoid using alcohol or substances to self-medicate your mood. Try to avoid the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. Physical exercise is often an antidote for depression. Writing in a journal can be a good outlet for your grief. Buy yourself something frivolous that you always wanted but never allowed yourself to indulge in.
Create a new tradition or ritual that accommodates your current situation. Some people find comfort in the old traditions. Others find them unbearably painful. Discuss with your family the activities you want to include or exclude this year. Some examples of new rituals and traditions include:
Announce beforehand that someone different will carve the turkey.
Create a memory box. You could fill it with photos of your loved one or written memory notes from family members and friends. Young children could include their drawings in the memory box.
Make a decorative quilt using favorite colors, symbols or images that remind you of the person who died.
Light a candle in honor of your absent loved one.
Put a bouquet of flowers on your holiday table in memory of your loved one.
Visit the cemetery and decorate the memorial site with holiday decorations.
Have a moment of silence during a holiday toast to honor your loved one.
Place a commemorative ornament on the Christmas tree.
Write a poem about your loved one and read it during a holiday ritual.
Play your loved one’s favorite music or favorite game.
Plan a meal with your loved ones’ favorite foods.
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, and that the best way to cope with that first holiday season is to plan ahead, get support from others and take it easy.
I hope these tips can help you or someone else that you love. Please remember that Grief has no timeline and we experience these feelings of grief on and off throughout the year and throughout our lives.