Making Your Way Through Grief and the Holidays

“Someday soon, we all will be together. If the Fates allow.  Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.” These words from a familiar Christmas song take on a special meaning to those experiencing the loss of a loved one.  Even if a person believes that they will be able to see their loved one again one day, this time of separation is not an easy journey.  Holidays bring so much happiness to many, but for those experiencing grief, it can be a time of loneliness and sadness.  What used to be a time spent with family and friends and making memories, becomes a time of thinking about what you’ve lost. Even years after a loss, many people find that holidays are still hard. If you are a person who is grieving, be gentle on yourself this holiday season. If you know someone who has lost a loved one, be mindful that this can be a difficult time.

Thanksgiving and Christmas can be hard for many people to get through. They’re supposed to be a time filled with cheer where families and friends gather around the dinner table to give thanks for what they have, but not all will find this a joyful time. It can be a stressful time, even when you are not grieving. This season is filled with large gatherings and the pressure to be jolly. A lot about this season is hard. If you or someone you know is grieving, remember that it is normal to feel more intense grief during the holidays. You may feel sadness, guilt, or even anger.  Your feelings may vary by the hour and that is normal. Simplify things and don’t be afraid to ask for and accept help.

There’s no right or wrong way to spend the holidays when you are grieving. You may wish to celebrate differently than you had in the past. Don’t be afraid to scale back or to skip things that will add stress.  It’s okay to say no sometimes and it’s okay to change your mind.  Above all else, you need to take care of yourself.

During this time, surround yourself with supportive people. Lean on others to help you get through it. Don’t be afraid to share how you are feeling with your friends and family.  People may not realize or understand what you are going through. They may think that since holidays are a time of joy that you will be fine when you are not. Let your family know how you are feeling so that they can be a support to you.  It’s okay to be sad and it’s also okay to be happy too. Let yourself feel what you feel.

Even though the holiday season is hard, there are ways that you can slowly reclaim Christmas joy while grieving. Here are a few ideas:

  • Find a way to remember your loved one. Write down memories in a journal. Put out pictures of them or watch home movies. Hang their stocking or other sentimental items.
  • Start a new tradition to keep their memory alive. Make or buy a memorial ornament. Donate their coats or clothes to those in need. Make their favorite meal. Watch their favorite movie after Thanksgiving dinner. Or make a donation in their name.
  • Take some time for yourself. Do something special just for yourself. Go to the spa or get your hair done.  Take a trip that you’ve always wanted to take.  Spend a day watching your favorite movies. Take a relaxing bath or nap.
  • Enjoy whatever you can during the holiday season. There is no harm or disrespect in celebrating. Your loved one would want you to find comfort where and when it comes.

Remember that grieving is a process, not an event. Get through today, then tomorrow. You will slowly make your way through grief. If you or someone you know could use some extra grief and loss support this holiday season, consider joining a Heart ‘n Home support group.  Our offices have support groups in different cities.  Check out our news and events calendar on our website to see when there is one close to you.

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