Thursday, December 10, 2009

Grief and the Holidays

The Holiday Season is fast approaching and it can be a very difficult time when a loved one has died. We are bombarded with images and announcements proclaiming this time of year as joyous, one surrounded by family and friends, a time to celebrate and these sentiments can be particularly hard when we are "Anything But Merry."
Traditions and rituals at this time can lose their meaning, especially when the person that made the traditions special is no longer a part of them. This year we put together a list to make handling the holidays easier and I wanted to share it here:

1. Skipping the holidays is likely not an option, you need to prepare and face them squarely. Make plans that you know you can do and that make you comfortable.

2. Focus on this holiday first. I always say "Do not add future griefs to the present ones." Don't look forward to all the holidays to come. Adding pressure to this holiday by worrying about the other special days, is added stress you do not need.

3. Think about ways to honour the memory of your loved one during the holiday. Whether it is beginning a new tradition or carrying on an old one, make your loved one a part of your celebration.

4. There are always unrealistic expectations during the holidays. They can come from family and friends or they can be expectations that we put on ourselves. Recognize what these expectations are and in doing that you can decide what you can or cannot do. Accept what is normal for you.

5. Take care of yourself. Holidays usually mean extra fatigue, drinking, partying and visiting. By making yourself a priority you will partake in festivities that you have the energy for and let the other activities wait for another year.

6. Remember that you are grieving. You will feel joy, pain and bittersweet memories. Let them come.

7. Plan ahead. Make lists, put events on the calendar, have "escape" plans. Take advantage of your good days, get things done on the to-do list, stay in on the bad days and rejuvenate.

8. Let yourself cry when you need to. You will not ruin the holiday for yourself or for others. Do what comes naturally for you. Holding in your emotions can be destructive.

9. It may be helpful to set limits. Let others know what you need and how they can best help you. Don't be forced into doing something because someone else thinks that you should.

10. Give yourself permission to have joyful times as well as mournful times. They are normal, not a betrayal.

11. Discuss your holiday traditions with your family. Decide what to keep, what to change and what to discard.

12. Make your goals small. Don't over-commit yourself. Take it slow and easy.

13. Go over your plans. Why are you doing them? For you or for someone else?

14. Do something for someone else. Even though you are feeling sad because of your loved ones death, reaching out to others can often bring you a certain holiday peace.

15. Lastly remember that it will not always be this way, this year is about doing the best that you can, with you in mind, for you.

1 comment:

  1. Even though mine is not the same loss, I found comfort in your message. I also think your ideas for the Holidays will be a great starting point on getting thru these "festive" times.