Oh the hustle and bustle of the holidays. They are filled with family gatherings, gift exchanges, too many sweets, and….a tinge of grief? When you lose a loved one there is a gaping hole that is left to be filled, and you might not be ready to fill it yet. Below are some tips to help you get through the holidays.
- Set Your Expectations: The social awkwardness that comes with overwhelming grief can be unbearable. If you normally have a work party, a friend dinner, family party you host, etc. Decide what you can commit to. You don’t need the weight of obligation on top of your grief, and people will It’s totally okay to take a year off for yourself to just feel. If you decide to avoid family, it will raise concern. Make sure you are clear with your communication and make sure that avoiding the party does not equate to staying home alone in the dark. This brings us to tip #2…
- Make the Most of Your Alone Time: There are many things you can do alone that are in the spirit of Christmas. Did you share a tradition with your loved one? Do they have a favorite Christmas song? Did you always go to a certain place this time of year? Still do those things. They won’t feel the same, but it will help you process the grief. You may cry while you hear the tune and still feel the weight of your grief, but it’s important to allow yourself to just If it’s too overwhelming, STOP. Don’t feel guilty. You’ll be able pick up the traditions next year (or later) when you’re up to it.
- Start New Traditions: It might be as simple as altering ones you already have. Recognize that change is immanent and you can still control your reaction to the change. If you always go to see the Christmas lights on Main Street, bring your kids this year or a friend. If your mom always made the Christmas pies, try her recipe or try a new kind of dessert. (We know it’ll never quite measure up to your mom’s caliber, but in a way, isn’t that okay too?) If you’re not up to the usual Christmas story and egg nog on Christmas Eve, try a game night, go out to eat, or go see the lights!
- Feel All the Feelings: Grief is natural. It can’t be rushed, set aside, bottled up, or put off for another time. You will be reminded time and time again that your loved one is gone. Like gentle shocks, it’ll be a running list of all the things that are different now. Allow yourself to feel. If you try to “just stay busy” so you “don’t have time to grieve,” it’ll only catch up with you. Don’t rush, because your grief will just take the time it needs. The time YOU need.
- Ignore the “Shoulds”: Everyone has an opinion on what you should do. You should come to the family party. You should come see the lights. You should host the family Christmas party. Should, should, should…throw all of them out the window. The first Christmas (or any holiday) is the most raw. Listen to your body and do what feels right for you.
If you’re reading this post because you’re grieving the loss of your loved one, we extend our condolences to you. We wish you all the best this holiday season and hope for a brighter New Year.