Grieving through the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, with all its expectations that normally challenge this season.  For those who have suffered a significant loss, this season can be especially difficult.  Even under normal conditions, the holidays can bring about numerous emotions that are often intensified at this time of year.

Here are a few thoughts on grieving during the holidays:

  • ·      Come as you are.  Remember that you are grieving.  Recognize that you enter the holidays as a grieving person and therefore will experience this season differently than ever before. 
  • ·      Expect and accept contradictory feelings.  Think in terms of both/and.  For example, you may feel both sad about your loss and grateful for the love your loved one brought into your life.  You may miss your loved one and look forward to a holiday gathering with friends.  One feeling doesn’t negate the other.  Experiencing contradictory feelings is part of being human.  Embrace both.
  • ·      Be aware of expectations.  If you feel pressured to celebrate the holidays the way you always have, with lots of decorating, cooking, and baking, ask yourself:  Whose expectations are these?  Are they yours?  Or has someone else placed them on you?  Remember that there are many ways to celebrate and not all traditions need to be continued during your time of grief.  Remove all “oughts” and “shoulds” from your vocabulary.
  • ·        Plan ahead.  If you do holiday shopping, make a list ahead of time and then wait until you are having a good day to do your shopping.
  • ·        Know your limits.  Take some time to be quiet and listen to your own heart.  What can you do, realistically?  Can you delegate tasks?  Can someone else in the family host the family dinner?  Express your needs to family and friends.
  • ·        Prioritize.  Decide what is important to you and omit the rest on your list.  You can always add them back another year.  Any changes you make this year don’t have to be permanent.
  • ·        Take care of yourself.  Grief is hard on our bodies.  Eat wisely and exercise, an important stress reliever and mood elevator.
  • ·        Express your feelings.    Because holidays often magnify feelings of loss, find support.  Find someone with whom you can share your feelings.
  • ·        Focus on your spiritual needs.   Whatever holiday you are celebrating, the image of light can become a personal metaphor for you.  What “light” do you desire during this season?  Is it a heightened sense of peace?  A balance between activity and reflection?  A sense of hope in the future?  Knowing what we need is a big step in discovering and claiming it.

 The holidays can be difficult, but they can be easier if we take care of ourselves and remember that this year’s celebrations can be honored differently.  Remember that you are in a place in your life where you’ve never been before.  Make self-care a priority.

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