With Thanksgiving and Christmas fast approaching, the following information on getting through the holidays after the death of a loved one seems timely. Remember to take what works for you and don’t worry about the rest. Be kind to yourself and others who are grieving during this holiday season. Peace be with you.
- Set limits on what you will do. Do only what you can comfortably do, emotionally and physically.
- Instead of you doing the dinner as always, allow others to help or let them do the dinner this year.
- You may wish to carry on the same tradition however, if it becomes too much, don’t be afraid to change it.
- If it doesn’t feel right to you or is too painful, don’t do it.
EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS
- Communicate what is comfortable for you. Say what you want and say what you need.
- People do not grieve in the same way so it is important to share your thoughts and feelings about what you think you need.
- Discuss with your family/ friends the holiday plans and tell them what you need to be comfortable and to get through the holiday.
- If you are concerned about a friend or relative who might not be as understanding of your feelings as you would like, practice at home what you will say to them. Become comfortable saying it so it can be offered in a positive way. This may open up room for conversation.
- Name your fears for the day. Write them down or talk to someone about them. Sometimes when we share them or write them down they may not seem as overwhelming and unmanageable as we initially thought.
- You are allowed to change your mind at any time.
- If invited to an event, tell your friends you may attend, but give yourself permission to change your mind at the last moment. Perhaps only go for appetizers or dessert.
- Decorating and the holiday rush takes a lot of energy, you don’t have to decorate if you don’t want to. The choice is yours.
CHANGE THE TRADITION (Remember, you can always return to it next year)
- Eat at a different time or change from a sit down dinner to buffet style.
- Change the theme of the tree or skip the tree altogether.
- Celebrate at a new location such as another family member’s house or friend’s home. Go on a vacation, visit a new place, or stay in a hotel for the night.
- Attend a different church.
- Change your expectation of the day and don’t try to live up to other’s expectations of the holiday.
- Ask someone who is alone to join your family for the holiday.
- Consider helping at a soup kitchen or church that are offering meals to those in need. Sometimes getting outside our own situation to help others, can help us feel better.
LIVE THE DAY IN A WAY THAT HAS MEANING FOR YOU
- Observe the day so that it has meaning and honors the relationship with your loved one.
- Take time to honor your grief. Light a candle for your loved one, put it in front of their picture.
- Write a letter to your loved one and put it with their picture, or under the tree, or in their stocking.
- Put out a card or memento from your loved one. Place something special of your loved one on the mantle or in the chair they always sat in.
CONNECT TO THE SPIRITUAL / MYSTERY OF LIFE
- Pray, meditate, listen to healing music.
- Read a book that is positive and will have meaning for you.
- Have your own memorial service for your loved one, with songs and readings, light a candle.
- Reconnect to laughter. It’s okay to be joyous while you are grieving.
- Honor your mind, body and spirit.
GIFTS AND GIVING
- Give homemade gifts: photos of your loved one, a certificate for a future lunch or movie, which will be social times you can look forward to.
- Buy yourself something that reminds yourself of your loved one.
- Buy a gift for someone else, or donate to a cause on behalf of your loved one. You can donate a personal item of your loved one that will benefit and be used by others.
- Donate your time to the hospital or the soup kitchen on their behalf.
- Give yourself permission for a day of rest.
- Do something kind for yourself: enjoy a hot bubble bath, sleep in, enjoy your favorite book, get a massage, go for a walk, watch your favorite movie, or do an art project.
- Eat healthy and get enough sleep.
- Allow yourself to feel a little gloomy for a few hours, or a day. Honor those feelings of sadness and loss and make space for them.
- Reach out to someone else, get outside, keep moving, do something active.
- Acknowledge and share your feelings with a friend, a counselor, a pastor or attend a group.
- Journal about your loved one.
- Read a book on grief.
- Provide time to review and release pent up emotions and anxieties by talking with someone or journaling.
Remember: No one can take away the time you had with your loved one and the love that was shared. Acknowledge what you learned from your loved one. What was their purpose in your life? What did they teach you about life? What are the positive qualities they brought out in you? Acknowledge and express this love.
- Be gentle and kind to yourself. Grief is hard work and it takes time.
- Don’t isolate yourself. Reach out to others.
- The anticipation of the day may be worse than the day itself.
- Hold on to hope. It will not always be this way.
Excerpts are from the film “A Ray of Hope”, Hope through Healing Publication, and Griefnet.org. The suggestions are gathered from the above mentioned resources. There are many good books on grief as well as positive websites to assist you in getting through the holidays. Whitman County Library and Neill Public Library have extensive collections available.