So many of our holiday traditions and memories are centered around family and friends. Because of that, a holiday after loss can feel empty, cold, and overwhelming. This week, I’ll explore some strategies that you might use to navigate the holidays after losing someone dear to you.
Name Your Feelings
The first step in good self-care when you are grieving over the holidays is to say what you are feeling. If you feel lonely, sad, angry, scared, tired, anti-holiday–naming the feeling gives you a place to start in coping with the feeling. Once you acknowledge your feelings, you can take steps to express them in healthy ways. Sometimes people tell me that they are concerned about sharing their feelings, because they don’t want to “bring down” those around them. If that is the case, you have several options. You can talk to others who share in your loss, giving one another space to grieve and remember. You can also seek outside support.
Get Good Support
If you don’t have someone near who shares your loss (and even if you do), it might be very important to add on to your support system. Many church communities have active grief support groups. Not a church member? No problem–there are many local independent grief support systems as well. You can talk directly to a pastor or a caring friend. You can reach out to a therapist. The specifics of how you reach your support aren’t important. What matters is that you have safe spaces to share your feelings and receive caring from others.
Listen to Your Needs
I wrote last week about the fact that sometimes, we need to adjust holiday traditions to reflect our current needs. This is especially important when you are grieving. Maybe the full holiday experience is too much for you to handle this year. Invite creative thinking about how you can honor the essence of the holiday, and care for others in your family, while respecting your own need to cut back a bit. Maybe doing your traditional holiday activities feels too sad and lonely this year–consider how you might change your scenery or alter the routine. Your family won’t stop functioning if there isn’t a five-course dinner. Maybe this is the year you do a movie and Chinese food instead. You may also need extra time to yourself or extra distractions from others. The better you are able to articulate those needs, the more likely it is that you’ll get them met.
Remember that the Holidays Will Pass
The holidays are a time when it’s easy to be overwhelmed–even when you aren’t grieving. Sometimes, it helps to just take a deep breath (or three), and remind yourself that the holidays will come and go. They may be painful, lonely, heart-wrenching, but they will end. You are allowed to hibernate (as much as your boss will allow), hunker down, and just get through it. Then you will get a brand new year, to build new memories, to cherish the memories of your lost loved ones. For now, you just need to do one day at a time (or one breath at a time), wherever you are in your coping process.
Image Credit: Photo “Service” by TonalScape via Flickr