Dealing with Grief During the Holiday Season
What do you do for the holidays when all you want to do is skip November and December? Dealing with loss over the holiday season can be extremely difficult. We grieve not only for the person who has died, but also for the life we lived with that person. We grieve for the time spent sharing important moments. More than any other time for families, holidays represent togetherness. The sights, songs, rituals and foods enjoyed with a lost loved one can bring a new intensity to grief. Even years after a loss, you might continue to feel sadness when you’re confronted with reminders of your loved one’s death.
During this time, keep things simple and only do what you feel up to doing. However, finding ways to celebrate can help. By planning ahead and dealing realistically with your expectations, you can help ensure the season is filled with healing and happiness.
Anniversary and holiday reactions are normal. Knowing that you’re likely to experience reactions can help you understand them and turn them into opportunities for healing. Ask your family what part of the season they enjoy and look forward to every year – and what parts they are not looking forward to this year. Think about how to make the day special for everyone. If you have small children and you plan on changing things, explain why so that they do not feel confused or punished.
Plan a distraction.
Schedule a gathering or a visit with friends or loved ones during times when you’re likely to feel alone or be reminded of your loved one’s death.
Reminisce about your relationship.
Focus on the good things about your relationship with your loved one and the time you had together, rather than the loss. Write a letter to your loved one or a note about some of your good memories. You can add to this note anytime.
Start a new tradition.
Make a donation to a charitable organization in your loved one’s name on birthdays or holidays, or plant a tree in honor of your loved one. Think about what traditions you want to keep and which ones you want to stop. Remember: traditions can be changed and then changed again in future years.
Connect with others.
Draw friends and loved ones close to you, including people who were special to your loved one. Find someone who will encourage you to talk about your loss. Stay connected to your usual support systems, such as spiritual leaders and social groups. Consider joining a bereavement support group. If you do not want to be alone, make plans. It may mean that you have to make the first move, but it is a way to let people know that you value them and want to spend time with them.
Allow yourself to feel a range of emotions.
It’s okay to be sad and feel a sense of loss, but also allow yourself to experience joy and happiness. As you celebrate special times, you might find yourself both laughing and crying.
When to Ask for Help
There’s no time limit for grief, and anniversary reactions can leave you reeling. Still, the intensity of grief tends to lessen with time.
If your grief gets worse over time instead of better or interferes with your ability to function in daily life, consult a grief counselor or other mental health provider. Unresolved or complicated grief can lead to depression and other health problems. With extra help, you can reestablish a sense of control and return to the path toward healing.
The Midland Care Center for Hope and Healing is available to support grieving families over the holiday season, with support groups and activities to help the entire family. Please get in touch if we can assist you in any way. Your loved one does not need to have used Midland Care Hospice Services for you to use the Midland Center for Hope and Healing.