Dealing with Holiday Traditions When You’ve Experienced a Loss

Holidays can be a time of mixed emotions, especially if you’re struggling with the recent death of a loved one or another loss, such as a relationship breakup or divorce.

The biggest thing to accept is that things are not going to be the same as when your loved one was with you.  It’s important to speak about the person you’ve lost and make them a part of the holiday in any way you can, especially the first year.

There is no timetable for grief, and the concept of closure is a difficult one.  (My personal belief is that there really is no such thing as closure.  You can eventually make peace with the loss, but you’re never “done” with it).  Grieving someone honors them and the relationship you had with them.  That being said, it’s also important to move on when you’re ready.  Doing so allows you (and the loved one) the freedom to continue to grow and to integrate the changes into your lives. (Yes, our loved ones continue to grow and evolve on the other side, and your relationship continues – it’s just going to be different).

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, 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 – and ask for it.

There are no “supposed to’s”.  If you don’t feel like putting up the tree, don’t.  And feel free to change your mind, even if it means canceling plans at the last minute if you just can’t find the energy to do something 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 – lighting a candle, setting aside time to tell everyone’s favorite story involving him/her, doing something that person enjoyed, or volunteering or donating time or money in their name.  Remember that your loved one did LIVE, he/she didn’t just die.  Honor the life.

Keep things simple. And be aware that the anticipation can be more difficult than the actual holiday.  If a little happiness tries to creep in, don’t shut it down.  Your loved one wants you to feel joy.

Above all, be gentle with yourself, and have a Blessed holiday.