Our favorite holiday memories and traditions include our dearest friends and family members- but what if one of those individuals is missing this year? As we are rapidly approaching the holiday season, grieving a loss of a loved one may seem insurmountable to cope with during this time. There are some ways to get through the holidays while feeling all of these emotions. You may still feel sad, but hopefully able to have some moments of joy peeking through.
Take Time for Yourself
With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. Gifts to buy, virtual gathering to attend, decorations to display, you can see how one can get in over their head, especially in the midst of coping with grief. The good news is, there are no ‘rules’ when it comes to the holidays. Before diving in, really take some time to yourself to be at one with your feelings. Try to indulge in self-care activities you enjoy, whether it be a nice bubble bath, or a cup of tea with some Netflix. Don’t rush yourself.
Start a New Tradition
Some people find comfort in familiar traditions; others find it difficult to proceed with ones that their loved ones were a part of. Coming up with new traditions that honor your loved one will help make it feel like they are with you this difficult year. Whether it’s lighting a candle, leaving an empty chair at the table or saying a few words about your departed loved one, it can be cathartic to include them. It can also open the possibility for others to talk about their loss as well. Changes in your traditions is ok - it is an integral part of family life and we should allow ourselves some fluidity when it comes to making traditions.
Honor Them by Giving Back
If you are still at a loss of how you can include your loved one in your holiday traditions, and nothing feels right consider giving to charity in their name. Think about what was important to them - animals, those less fortunate, children - and find a charity to reflect that. Buy a present they would’ve liked, and donate it to a charity. Have flowers or treats delivered to a hospital or nursing home that they were a part of. If you are feeling ambitious, "Adopt" a less-fortunate family during the holidays, whether through your church or other local charitable organization and help make their holiday brighter in memory of your loved one.
If you are really missing someone who passed away this year, go visit them. Bring some pretty flowers, or a grave blanket to their resting place. If Christmas or Hanukkah was an important holiday to them, decorate their space. Spend some time sitting with them, reflecting on happier memories, or talking to them about your plans.
Take Time to Grieve
Experiencing happiness is not disrespectful to your loved one. It is also OK to be sad, and unhappy. Feeling a wide range of emotions is normal. Set time aside in your day to really be present with your feelings. Cry, scream, whatever you need to do to get it all out. People experience grief in different ways and it is OK to let yourself feel different emotions. Remember, you are going to get through this.
If you feel like your grief or sadness is making it difficult to cope, to enjoy happy things, or just want someone to talk to - there is support available to help. This holiday season, surround yourself with family and friends that are aware of the difficult time you are going through, ones that you can freely express yourself and not feel judgement. In your emotional healing journey, it can be difficult to take the first step in finding and identifying support. There are websites out there like GoodTherapy that can point you in the direction of a mental health specialist near you, and also allows you to apply filters in finding the right service or person for you. Talk about your loss with other people who may be going through the same thing. Our website has wonderful information that can guide you to a support group, as well as extensive resources in our support library.
Remember; there is no wrong or right way to grieve, or celebrate. Do what feels right to you. Plan ahead, get support, and try to take it easy on yourself.