Anticipating the Holidays
Experiencing the holidays can be difficult after a loved one dies, especially during the first year. Here are some suggestions on how to cope with your grief during this time:
- KEEP HOLIDAY PLANS SIMPLE.
If you’ve had a recent loss or change, dealing with your mourning is going to take time and energy. Plan for it, and don’t crowd it into your schedule.
- ACCEPT NEW ROLES.
Accept the new roles that members of the family now must assume and the different way things will be done. The loved one’s absence means that the role that person carried out needs to be carried out by others, or dropped. This can be quite an adjustment.
- ACKNOWLEDGE THE ONE WHO IS NOT THERE.
If you have a holiday gathering, speak about the person who is not there.
Consider including time for those who gather to remember the deceased.
- REINVEST IN LIFE.
As you approach the holidays, think about someone new you would like to include in your gatherings or activities, or try out some new holiday-related experience that interests you or gives new meaning to the holiday.
- SPRINKLE SOME JOY.
It’s okay to be joyful during the holiday season, even when our hearts are aching with sadness.
- BE GENTLE WITH YOURSELF.
Remember that grief is a process, not an event. Each of us works through the grief process in our own way and in our own time.
- TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
A grieving body is more susceptible to illness and needs proper nourishment and rest.
- CRY, CRY, CRY.
Whatever you do, allow yourself to cry when you feel the need to cry. Ignore any advice you hear to be “strong, don’t cry.” Crying helps you both physically and emotionally. It has an effect similar to that of exercise in that it reduces stress and calms anxiety.
- DO WHAT FEELS COMFORTABLE TO YOU.
Recognize that the holidays won’t be the same this year, so think about which family rituals and activities you want to preserve and which ones might be too stressful or painful right now.
- BE PREPARED.
Expect some physical and emotional responses to your loss. Although everyone’s grief is different, there are some responses that are commonly experienced by most bereaved people.
Be prepared for any type of response, especially from adolescents. For teenagers, the death of a loved one during this time of their life is very difficult. Be patient even if they are being hurtful or mean.
- CONFIDE IN SOMEONE.
Find someone who will listen to you without feeling they must come up with answers to your problems. This person may be a family member, friend or clergyperson. If you do not know this type of person, visit a professional grief counselor.
For more information, call: 805-642-0239
1-5: Pat Hoffman, author of several books including AIDS and the Sleeping Church.
6,7,10: Karla Wheeler, Bereavement Tips for the Holidays.
8,9,11,12,13: Guidelines Publications, Grief and the Holidays.