This season of celebration can be especially difficult after suffering the loss of a loved one. As you approach the holidays or any significant date after a loss it’s important to remember that intensified feelings of grief are natural. To grieve, even long after a significant loss, is not a weakness or disease, it’s an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity. They say it’s the price we pay for love.
As foreign as it may be for you, it is essential that you take care of yourself during this time of family and tradition.
Following are several ideas not only for coping but for helping yourself heal this Holiday Season some of which are adapted from the work of Dr. Alan Wolfelt:
- Be compassionate with yourself – It’s ok to have intensified feelings at this time or other significant dates or events
- Move toward your grief rather than away from it. – Breathe into it, be present without judgment.
- Talk about your grief. – Choose people who can listen without judging you.
- Know your physical and psychological limits. – Fatigue is common when you’re grieving.
- Eliminate unnecessary stress. – Don’t overextend, also don’t isolate or “keep busy”.
- Be with supportive, comforting people. – Find people who encourage you to be yourself and accept your feelings – both happy and sad.
- Talk about the person who has died – Include their name in your conversations.
- Plan ahead for family gatherings. – Choose where you will and will not participate; be ok with changing your mind.
- Embrace your treasure of memories. – Instead of ignoring memories, share them when they arise.
- Consider what is important to you now. – Spend time thinking about the meaning and purpose of your life now. It may be very different from what it had been so take inventory of your life and look inward to see where you want to go now.
- Express your faith. – This could be a time for finding a renewed sense of faith or discovering a new set of beliefs. Be open to what feels right for you.
- Do what is right for you during the holidays. – Well-meaning friends and family often try to tell you what is good for you, what you should do. Instead of going along with their plans, focus on what you want to do.
Rituals can be very comforting and healing as well. Here are a few ideas of things you might want to incorporate into your Holiday celebrations to include your loved one:
- Do something your loved one loved to do in their honour, like watch their favourite movie or go to a place they particularly enjoyed.
- Hang up their Christmas stocking and fill it with love or a letter of love and appreciation.
- Make an ornament with their picture and/or name on it and hang it on the tree.
- Make a favorite dish or recipe of your loved one.
- Take a long hot bath with candles and soothing music and let yourself remember to good times you shared.
- Take a quiet walk in the woods or a park.
- Light a candle for your loved one.
- Sit in silence in a chapel, church, temple or favourite sanctuary.
Don’t let anyone take your grief away. If well-meaning family and friends try to make you feel better or give you advice that is intellectual but not helpful, remember, they are doing their best too and may not know how to be with you. It’s ok to reassure them that it’s ok for you to grieve and you understand their discomfort but they do not have to give you advice. If they really want to help invite them to simply be with you and listen to you without having to fix you.