Grief During the Holidays
The holidays are upon us! For many this is exciting, especially after how difficult 2020 has been for most. Maybe you are looking forward to time with family, sharing holidays traditions, breaking bread with others or even the gift giving part of Christmas. For others though, the holidays this year will only remind you of what isn't there or more importantly WHO isn't there. When we lose people in our lives who are important, the holidays can change for us. Maybe we dread the empty seat at the dinner table. Or maybe we feel our gift list for others is just shorter now. Maybe we think back to past times with our loved ones and weep over those precious memories. The truth is, we never know when a holiday will be the last with someone we love. I know that falls into the super depressing category of thought and maybe you'd rather not think about it. I say that to remind you though, life is precious and short. We need to cherish our time with our loved ones. We need to stay up later then we want just to sit around the table and talk. We need to buy that extra gift for someone even when we probably don't have to. We need to make traditions with our children and fight to continue the ones from our own childhood.
So the challenge to those of us excited about the upcoming holidays is to cherish every second of it. Savor the time we have with friends and family. Take the pictures, record the videos, make the memories! Let's also be aware that many of our family and friends are hurting this year. Many people have had loss in their lives, whether its loved ones or a job or financial security. It's been a rough ride. Take time to think about the ones in your life who are facing the holidays with mixed emotions due to the loss of someone special. What ways can you reach out and show support?
If you are facing the holidays with a void this year, what can you do? Try by finding a way to incorporate your loved one still. Maybe it's honoring their seat at the table with an object of theirs or a flower. Maybe it's finding a special ornament for the tree that represents them. Maybe it's re-watching old family videos or looking through family photo albums ( or your phone) for pictures of past holidays. Maybe try sitting around the table and sharing memories of that loved one. Share the ones that make you laugh and the ones that make you cry. Allow yourself all the emotions! It's okay for it to feel like a rollercoaster at times. Most importantly, make the most of the ones you still have by celebrating with them.
Below are some practical tips for dealing with Grief during the holidays.
Set Boundaries- You DO NOT have to say yes to every invitation. Should you go to some events, probably, but not every event you are invited. Know your limits and know when to say no to an invitation.
2. Understand that grief is very fluid and often spikes around the holidays. It may have been
years since you lost someone and then all of the sudden you hear a Christmas song and
are moved to tears. Thats OKAY! Memories are very much connected to our senses and a
memory, as happy as it may be at the time, can bring a flood of emotions. Acknowledge
those emotions, cry if you need to and accept it is normal.
3. Focus on what you can do. Instead of feeling guilty for skipping parties or not wanting to put
up your stockings this year, focus on what you can do. Make new memories with the friends
and families you have left. Look for ways to honor those you have lost.
4. Plan ahead. Pick out the events and parties you want to attend and be reasonable. Don't
over schedule yourself. Leave empty days on the calendar. Leave time for yourself and the
days your emotions are high.
5. Honor your loved ones who are gone. Find a way to incorporate them into your holidays. A
few tips were mentioned above but there are many more. You can be as creative as you
want and personalize to that person! Did your loved one have a favorite singing Christmas
toy? Put it out so everyone can see it and let it sing! Did your loved one have a ugly
Christmas sweater? Put it on their chair at dinner or let someone younger in the family
start to wear it. The point is you can find formal and informal ways to make that person still
a part of your celebrations.
6. Do something for others. We often get focused on our own pain which is part of the grief
process but doing a kind deed or an act of service for someone else may help boost your
mood. Maybe you have more time this year. Look for opportunities to help others and I
think you will see a shift in your mood!
7. Know when to ask for help. This is a big one for any time we are going through something
difficult. We all have our limit. Acknowledge when it seems to be getting to heavy to carry
alone. Perhaps you have a friend or family member you can share your burden with.
Perhaps you want to consider counseling for this need. Whatever works best for you, find
that person. Don't suffer in silence!
My heart aches for all the ones going through grief this time of year. My family has had it's share of that and I know the holidays makes grief seem bigger. My prayer for everyone is that we can still rejoice this year despite our voids. We can still be thankful. We can still celebrate the miracle of Christmas. We can still miss our loved ones. Yet we still carry on. That's how we honor them most.