Holidays are clearly some of the roughest terrain we navigate after a loss. The way you handle them are as unique as you are. What is most important is that you accept is that things are not going to be the same as when your loved one was with you. For many, it helps to speak about the person they’ve lost and make them a part of the holiday in some way. Avoiding thoughts of the loved one might help temporarily, but in the long run, it makes the loss more difficult.
There is no timetable for grief. Grieving someone honors them and the relationship you had with them. Holidays are part of the journey to be felt fully. They are usually very sad, but sometimes you may catch yourself doing okay, and you may even have a brief moment of laughter. You might feel guilty if this happens, but the reality is that your loved one woudn’t want you to be miserable. Whatever you experience, just remember that sadness is allowed because death doesn’t take a holiday. And feeling joy does not negate the impact your loved one had on your life.
Your friends and relatives might think they know how your holidays should look, what the family should and shouldn’t do. They may just be uncomfortable with your pain, and want you to feel better. But grief is one of those things in life for which there is no detour. We HAVE to go through it in order to come out on the other side. However, we each go through it in our own way, so don’t let anyone else dictate how you manage your holiday. There are no “supposed to’s”. Now more than ever, be gentle with yourself, but do it your way.
When preparing for the holiday, think ahead about what you can comfortably handle and bring others in to help with the parts you can’t – hanging lights, putting up a tree, cooking a meal or ordering food, etc. Speak up when you feel friends and family are leaving you alone a little too much, or if they’re trying to keep you too busy. You may not think you know what you need at any given moment, but you have to go with what you’re feeling in the moment – and ask for it.
And feel free to change your mind, even if it means cancelling plans at the last minute if you just can’t find the energy to cook the meal or put up the tree, or something else you’d planned.
Let traditions slide if you just don’t feel up to them this year – or change things up to give new meaning to this time. If there are children involved, be sure to acknowledge that the holiday will be different this year. Have them help with various planning and preparations if possible, so they feel more a part of it, especially activities that honor the loved one. Remember that your loved one did LIVE, he/she didn’t just die. Honor the life.
Here are just a few suggestions on how to honor your loved one. But, be creative and do what feels right to you:
-If you miss shopping for your loved one, buy something he/she would have liked, then donate it to a shelter or some other organization that adopts families for the holiday.
-Light a candle
-Say a prayer
-Donate time or money in their name
-Do something you loved to do together on that day
-I’ve even known families who set a place at the table for their loved one, and share fond memories of him/her during the meal, or set aside a specific time to do this.
Keep things simple, and be aware that the anticipation can be more difficult than the actual holiday. It isn’t as important how you remember. You honor them by the fact that you remember.
Sending you peace for your holiday season.