Holidays are reminders of special moments in our lives. We celebrate them together with family and friends and memories are created. But for those who have lost a loved one, or who are alone during the season, the holidays can be painful reminders of grief, making it harder to celebrate and bringing greater sadness and loneliness regarding the loss or their “alone-ness.” The need for support is great during the holiday time. Those who are suffering loss should not pretend they are “fine” and don’t feel the hurt. Learning to express their grief is vital.
This time of the year is the most challenging of all. There are ways to externalize the loss of a loved one during the holidays, and also can be helpful for someone alone.
Make it a special celebration in some way – perhaps a prayer before the holiday dinner of the loved one, or something you remember that was a time of happiness – a good memory.
If you are suffering grief at this time, light a candle for your loved one. Create an online tribute for them and remember them in prayer. Share a favorite story about the person, and have everyone tell a funny story about your loved one.
If you are alone, try to involve yourself in a church community or a community meal, write a letter to someone, or exchange an email. Being a volunteer serves both involved!
There are many ways to cope with the holidays like having a plan A and a plan B – no one can fault those who are grieving who may want to take a break from the holiday hustle-bustle. Some people may want to “try the holidays” in a new way and this may mean new traditions, or setting aside the usual traditions until the grief subsides. There is no one way to adjust and journey through the grief.
It is so important to think of our own self-care:
Be gentle with yourself and protect yourself from not over-doing.
Don’t do more than you want, and don’t do anything that does not serve your soul.
Do allow time for your feelings, there is no need to hurry.
Don’t keep your feelings bottled up which does mean we need to allow others to help us.
And for all of us, it is important to remember that not everyone looks forward to the holidays as a special celebration. We need to be willing to help others – inviting them into a group or family event, giving them a call, a letter or sending them an email. Even inviting someone for a coffee time can be such a reassuring gesture.
Be aware of children too and their need for extra attention for often times children can be overlooked as the forgotten grievers or those who are lonely as well.
Holidays can be a joyous time and being sensitive and aware of our needs and the needs of those grieving and alone is so important.
By Patricia R. Toney, Licensed Professional Counselor, ThedaCare Behavioral Health, Waupaca and New London