How can I cope with the holidays after I have lost someone?
It’s that time of year again. Where families come together to bask in the warmth and peace that the holiday season bestows upon us. However for some people struggling with grief, this time of year can bring even more sorrows. You may ask yourself, “how can I enjoy the holidays when my heart feels so heavy and empty?” When you lose someone special, your entire world lacks its celebratory qualities; holidays heighten that loss, creating a sense of exacerbated loneliness which makes it almost impossible to relish in what the holiday season has to offer. Support during this time is much needed as the increased loneliness can cause even more isolation and dissociation. Putting on a fake smile and pretending to not be in the grieving stage is not the answer. Rather than avoiding the feelings of grief, lean into them. It is not the grief you want to avoid, but the pain that is associated with it. No one can take that pain away, but grief is not just pain, it is also love. So, how can you work through the sadness and pain you feel during the holidays? Here are some tips and strategies to help you cope with loss:
1) Set boundaries with holiday events: You are free to take part or not, depending on how it feels. While there may be pressure to attend a holiday party, family gathering, or holiday performance, remember to assess your readiness by considering your wants and needs. It is good to commit to something that sounds fun while also reminding yourself that you don’t have to stay the entire time. Finding a balance between engaging and not pushing yourself is important.
2) Tune into your grief emotions: It is important to acknowledge your feelings and not avoid them. While grieving, you could feel both happy and sad around the holidays, and that's okay. Remember to be kind to yourself and that all emotions can coexist. You can miss that person and enjoy the holidays.
3) Plan ahead to fill empty holiday roles: Certain responsibilities frequently need to be filled after a loss. It's crucial to plan ahead and think about who will step into those vacant roles (especially when there are kids involved) (e.g. Dad always dressed as Santa or Aunt always cuts the turkey). Planning ahead can help make the experiences more joyful and fluid by preventing needless times of sorrow.
4) Honor old traditions and honor memories: It can be extremely helpful to continue with old traditions that existed when that individual was still around to honor and celebrate them; it helps to keep their memory present.
5) Create new traditions: Creating new traditions can be healing for individuals in the grieving process. Making new memories does not erase the old memories that you had with your loved one; remember, your loved one would want you to enjoy the holidays.
Although you may feel lonely during the holidays as you grieve your lost loved one, you are not alone. It is important to practice self love, seek support from your family, friends and neighbors. The holidays are a time of year that can be difficult for many people. Anchor Counseling is here to help you.