We often hold an image at the end of the year of gatherings of family and friends, laughter and sharing, warmth and love. While these images may hold true for some families, for those with a recent loss the holiday season can be especially painful.
The holiday season is not always full of joy and wonder for everyone. If you dreaded the holidays before your loss, you may feel even more like avoiding them completely.
Holidays make you aware of the passage of time and magnify your grief. Celebrating with a fresh loss can be challenging when you feel lonely and sad, as you realize that the “days gone by” have changed forever, and that your life has changed forever.
The first holiday season after the loss of a loved one is very difficult. You can prepare for the change by making new plans and creating new traditions that make you feel less sad, while also allowing yourself to allow memories of good times in the past. Plan alternate activities as an “out” in case you find you can’t handle what you intended to do. Be willing to say no, and allow yourself to graciously leave a gathering that is painful.
Be sure to ask for the support you need from friends and family. Try to remember that it is acceptable and healthy to laugh, sing and play, and then in the next moment feel angry or sad – allow yourself to feel what you feel in the moment. Remember that if you do not release your grief, it is difficult to heal. Do not pretend that “everything is fine” when you’re grieving, if this is not the truth for you.
Be aware that if you are sure you will have a terrible holiday season due to your loss, then most likely you will. Try to not predict how you will feel and allow emotions and energy levels to flow naturally.
If you are the friend of someone grieving, do not “should” them. Be willing to actively listen and offer emotional support and help with activities or chores, and be willing to “be there” for the person.
Take extra care of your health and wellbeing. Sleep as much as you need, be even more conscious of healthy eating patterns. Allow yourself to do nothing when you need to, but be careful to avoid isolation. Allow yourself to ask for help.