Dealing with the loss of a loved one is never easy, regardless of the circumstances or time of year. A loss is a loss, and not having a loved one or family member there will have a negative effect on you, especially at a time of year when everyone expects you to be happy and joyous. Staying jolly during the holidays is a difficult enough task on its own, and coupled with loss and mourning, it can become an almost impossible task. The holidays tend to come with family gatherings and big celebrations, which will act as painful reminders of the absence of your loved one. However, the holidays can also be a powerful chance to think of good memories, focus on the joy of the holidays, and spend time with others to distract yourself from the feeling of loss. When dealing with grief this holiday season, here are some suggestions for what you can do to make it just that much easier on yourself.
- There’s not much that can be done about how you feel, and trying to change it will only make your feelings more pronounced and impending. Everyone grieves in their own way, and that means allowing the emotions to envelop you however they do, and trying to go along with the glow. Just because you think that you should be feeling one way doesn’t mean that’s the case, and unfortunately, it’s very difficult to willfully change how you feel. If you’re feeling joyous, that’s no reason to feel guilty. Your loved one would want you to enjoy this special time of the year, and would accept the real emotions that you’re feeling in the moment.
- This also means doing whatever feels right to you, and not thinking about what others might say. If you feel that going out to a holiday party will dampen your mood, you can always make the decision to stay at home. Even though others may pressure you to show up, only you can understand the effect that doing so will have on your well-being, and the choice is ultimately yours. The grieving process takes time, and as long as there’s an end goal in sight, you can rest assured knowing that any amount of time that you take is acceptable. Think of getting through the holiday season in a healthy way, and do whatever compliments that.
- Relaying these feelings to your friends and family is a great place to start, since it will help them understand how to act around you. Tell them about your emotions, and explain exactly what you want to focus on going forward. Don’t hesitate to set ground rules for how they can help you deal with your loss. If you don’t want friends bringing it up, it’ll be much easier and less painful if you tell them this upfront. Your friends and family can use learning materials such as movies and books to educate themselves on how to help you in this difficult time, or you can both go to support groups and lectures together. Surrounding yourself with loved ones is one of the best ways of dealing with loss, especially at such a high-sprung time of year.
- Rituals and traditions are what help cement one’s feelings in a particular time and place, and following these lifelong traditions can be a powerful way to overcome a loss. Not only will it help show you that life goes on, but it will also show those dependent on you, such as your children, that you’re willing to keep moving forward. Withdrawing from your family may only serve to extend your grief, and can alienate those that care for you.
- Gift-giving can be a tremendous aid in overpowering the grief, because it gives you a sense of emotional relief. When you provide someone with a gift they want or need, their happy feelings will inadvertently transfer over to you, helping you both celebrate the holidays together. Even though it can be difficult to think of gift buying and giving following the death of a loved one, it can also be an effective distraction from the negative emotions surrounding you.
- Finally, consider using the holidays as a time for remembering and honoring the loved one, whether by thinking about them, talking about them, or even in memorializing them all together. You can ask your friends and family to gift you some form of memorabilia of your loved one for the holidays. This will help you associate good memories of them with the holidays, allowing you to channel your loss into a holiday celebration.
Even though it can be difficult to imagine a holiday season without your loved one, life does go on, and at some point you’ll find yourself enjoying the holidays once again. Time helps heal grief and mourning, but following these tips can help simplify the process, making this holiday season that much more bearable. And hopefully, even enjoyable!