Preparing for the Holidays with a Recent Loss
Grief does not end at the funeral, especially if you happen to lose a loved one as the holiday season draws near. There is something about this highly festive time of year that magnifies feelings of loneliness and grief—and if your loss is a recent one, getting through each day can become even more of a struggle.
Although only you can decide for yourself which holiday traditions to uphold and which ones you are not yet ready to face, here are a few tips for handling the two extremes of mourning and celebration.
- Uphold Traditions…Or Start Entirely New Ones: Some people take comfort in revisiting old traditions that bring out memories of the deceased. Others find it too painful (especially when the sense of loss is new). Both of these options are perfectly acceptable, or you can try to forge a middle path where you combine both old and new.
- Accept Sadness (and Happiness): The highs and lows of the holiday season tend to be felt by everyone regardless of whether or not they recently experienced a loss. The joys of the holidays, the stresses of shopping and navigating the winter weather…we all bounce between the two. That won’t change after experiencing the loss of a loved one. Be prepared to accept the stress and grief, but also be prepared to accept the happiness. It is okay to experience feelings of joy even in the midst of your bereavement.
- Embrace Family and Friends: For many, the holidays are more about family than they are about customs and traditions. Try to magnify this sentiment as much as possible. Your family and friends are likely to offer more support during this difficult time of year, and accepting that support can be a good way to make it through with your heart intact.
- Move Away from Yourself: Grief is often exhausting because it is such a solitary journey. If you need to get out of your headspace for a while, consider donating your time to a worthwhile charity or throwing yourself into an activity for the kids. Having concrete goals outside of your own needs can be beneficial in helping you move forward.
- Skip the Gifts: Along the same lines of donating your time to a worthwhile charity, you may want to consider skipping gift-giving this year in lieu of a charitable donation. Tell your family that the prospect of buying and wrapping gifts is too much to handle, and that you will make a donation to the deceased’s favorite charity in all of their names instead.
- Hold a Vigil/Service: Although you might still be tying up the loose ends from recent funeral plans, you might want to consider adding a memorial service, vigil, or other ceremony to honor the deceased this holiday season. A large gathering, a quiet moment alone, or any kind of activity in between can be a great way to acknowledge your loss during this time of year.
Above all else, be sure and ask for help if you need it. Professional guidance, support from family and friends, even online support groups…they are all here to help you find ways to navigate the holidays and your loss at the same time.