According to our favorite holiday movies and books we should be serene, happy and peaceful throughout the holidays. This is rarely the case, however, for those who may be grieving the loss of a loved one. Holidays are hard when you are consumed with grief, no matter how long ago you experienced your loss.
We all experience grief differently and there is no right way to do it. The same is true for coping with a loss. How one person manages may not be the same as the next.
The key to grief is patience and compassion. Grief can make often make us feel lost and confused. Here are some suggestions on how to manage your grief so that you can acknowledge what you are feeling, but also make sure that you enjoy the holidays to the fullest.
- Set limits for yourself: Grieving requires energy so slow down and take the opportunity to rest and recover a bit more often than usual. Don’t be afraid to say “no” and to prioritize your mental and emotional health as much as possible. Do only those things that mean the most to you and conserve your energy.
- Plan your schedule ahead of time: When it comes to putting everything together for the holidays, you will want to have a plan. A plan for gift giving, holiday events, food preparation, work responsibilities and self care will keep you calm and give you a better sense of control. When you have intense or difficult emotions, you will be able to rely on the schedule to keep things on track without feeling overwhelmed.
- Honor your loved one: When you lose someone, you don’t have to forget them and the things that you shared. If you had traditions or holiday memories that you want to keep going after they’re gone, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You will be able to show your respect and love for them by honoring your loved one as well as their memory through continuing with these traditions.
- Create new traditions: There is nothing wrong with starting a new chapter in your life, especially around the holidays. Your new traditions are a positive and healthy way to manage and understand your grief in an approachable way. These new ways of celebrating the season will help you stay in the moment and experience this time of year with a renewed sense of purpose and joy.
- Allow and accept your emotions: When you are dealing with something as big as grief, you can’t keep it bottled up during the holidays. It’s easy to want to do that and you may feel as if you must always be cheerful, but remember that holidays are meant for emotion. Sharing your grief in a meaningful way is part of connecting to loved ones. They will appreciate your honesty and you won’t be alone with your feelings.
- Accept your grief and be mindful of the present: When we have the willingness to accept our struggles those struggles can lose their power. The final stage of grief is known as acceptance. Acceptance will allow you to see your new reality and how it impacts your life and relationships. Acceptance sees that life continues and is never the same. It is enriched by your loved one’s presence and encourages hope.
The holidays can be an emotional time of year, but you don’t have to go through them alone. Share what you feel with those around you, and make the holiday season a happy time by relying on a plan and taking the time that you need to comfort and take care of yourself. Don’t be afraid to stick to old traditions and create new ones. Be present and willing to experience the hope and joy that the season can bring.