The Holidays can be the toughest time of the year for so many. It’s another reminder that the people we loved are no longer around. This could be as a result of a death, break-up, divorce, move or other loss-related event. Instead of crawling up into a ball and hiding under the covers, here are some things you can do:
Don’t isolate yourself – Sometimes the easiest thing to do when we are grieving is hide away somewhere until it goes away. Unfortunately it isn’t that easy. Trying to grieve alone during the Holidays can make it even tougher. Although we don’t have to feel obligated to attend any festivities if we don’t want to, we might consider spending time with a dear friend or family member just so we are not alone.
Talk about your feelings – It’s so easy to just plaster on a fake smile and drag ourselves through Holiday functions. Don’t do it. It you don’t feel like attending the Holiday office party or Aunt Susie’s cookie exchange then don’t do it. Rather than not showing up to these events just let everyone know you are having a tough time, appreciate their offer but will have to decline the invite. Those who love you will understand. You have to do what’s right for you.
Find time to relax – Grieving tends to throw us into a tailspin. The Holidays just add to the craziness. Rather than getting caught up in a hurricane of activities, it’s important to find some time to relax. Take an afternoon nap. Watch a favorite movie. Take a walk. Treat yourself to a spa day. Take a yoga class. Schedule a Reiki session. If we don’t make time to relax we could find ourselves winding ourselves up into a frenzy. This is not good for us spiritually, physically or emotionally.
Spend time in nature – Grief is an energy-depleting emotion. Nature can help to us to replenish our energy. Just taking a walk outside refreshes and rejuvenates us. It doesn’t even have to be a long walk. Go around the block. Look at the beauty in nature around you. Smell a flower. Watch a sunset. Go outside and look at the stars.
Practice self-care – Too many times we put our own self care on hold because we are facing grief. Did you know that grievers have a higher incident of illness and accidents? This is why it is important to try and take care of yourself as much as possible. If you are physically healthy, it makes it easier to deal with your emotions. If you are physically, spiritually and emotionally drained you put yourself at risk of getting sick or being in an accident. Be gentle with yourself during this time.
Create a new tradition – Holidays mark special milestones in a family’s life. Often when someone we love is no longer with us it’s hard to face those Holiday traditions that you shared. If that is tough for you, find a new tradition that you can start to honor your loved one. Go away for the Holidays. Visit a homeless shelter. Visit the cemetery where your loved one is buried. Open presents on a different day. Think about how you will remember the life of your loved one in your family’s history and traditions.
Be honest about how you are doing – Sometimes we do things just because we don’t want to be judged or criticized. If you really don’t want to participate in Holiday work or family events then DON’T. If it makes you sad to be at Aunt Mary’s this year, then DON’T go. If going to the office Holiday party is the last thing you feel like doing then DON’T. We don’t want the family or co-workers talking about why we weren’t there. But if we are honest and let them know that you appreciate the invitation but it’s just too tough to face the Holidays this year, they should understand. And if they don’t, too bad. It’s about you right now and what you are going through. It’s not about anyone else or their expectations of what you should be doing.
Ask for help – It is okay to ask for help especially when you are grieving. When things are “normal” we run around like superman and superwoman. We multi-task all day and collapse exhausted in bed at night. But when we are grieving our whole world is turned upside down. We can’t think. We can’t react. We can’t speak. We can’t sleep. Grievers have a higher incident of illness and accidents due to these facts. Trying to do everything yourself is just asking for trouble. Reach out. Even if it is just asking someone to sit with you while you talk or cry. Maybe it’s having a friend drop off dinner on their way home from work because you forgot to go to the grocery store. Maybe it’s asking another parent to take the kids for a few hours so you can actually get some much needed sleep. Asking for help when you are grieving is far better, definitely safer and certainly healthier for you than trying to handle everything yourself!
Share your memories – It is very comforting for a griever to talk about their loved ones and share their stories. Make some time to share these memories with friends or family. Have everyone share a special memory that they may have as well. Bring out those old home movies or photographs. Watch your loved one’s favorite Holiday movie. Cook your loved one’s favorite Holiday meal. There are so many things you can do to keep those memories special.
Take one day at a time – Don’t stress yourself out by thinking too far into the future. Just take it one day at a time. You may not get everything done and that’s okay. Let friends and family know that it’s just too tough this year. And if you chose not to do anything at all then that’s okay too.
Honor your sadness – Society has placed too many unrealistic expectations on grievers. You have to be finished grieving by a certain time. You have to stop being sad by a certain date. You have to be strong so others don’t know how much you are hurting. These are urban legends. They are so very wrong. If you are having a tough time, understand it is normal when you are grieving. Allow yourself to be sad. Don’t hold back those emotions.
Join a support or bereavement group – Because it’s understood how hard the Holidays can be for grievers, many organizations offer support or bereavement groups specifically during this time. Groups are often offered by churches or synagogues, as well as by funeral homes, hospitals or hospices. These groups may help you to feel less isolated during the Holidays. They provide a safe, supportive, non-judgmental atmosphere where you can talk to each other about what you’re experiencing. After all, one of the most important aspects for a griever is the need to be heard and not feel alone. Bereavement and support groups especially during the Holidays can do just that.
The most important thing is that you do what works best for you. Not Aunt Sally. Not Cousin Fred. But what works for you.
Sending you love, comfort and peace!