Coping with the Holidays When You are Grieving

The end of each year brings a flurry of holidays—Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and New Years. Along with all the joys of the season comes all of the stresses and strains of shopping, travel, meal planning and preparation, holiday decorations and family dynamics. If you are still filled with the emotions of having lost a loved one recently, you may feel this is all too much to deal with. Amidst all the happy greetings of the season, you’re grieving and missing your loved one so much. How will you ever make it through?

Here are a few thoughts that may help you, your family and friends.

First, realize you can’t avoid the holidays. You can’t crawl into your den and hibernate for the next two or three months until all of this is past. Even in the best of times, you know it can be challenging to live up to the unrealistic cheerfulness of the season. This year will be even more difficult as you deal with all the normal things of the season and deal with your grief as well. You’re going to have to find ways to manage your grief through the holidays and you will likely need help from family and friends.

Take care of yourself. Be sure to get enough sleep and exercise. Pay particular attention to the things you are eating to ensure you’re getting the nourishment you need. Avoid “medicating” yourself with alcohol and drugs. Pray.

Accept the fact that you are going to feel pain, no matter how accommodating and supportive your family and friends can be for you. You are still missing your loved one and holiday remembrances only amplify your feelings of loss. Emotionally, you are going to have a roller coaster ride. When the emotional lows arrive, don’t be afraid to cry. It’s a natural part of grieving and it provides a wonderful release of tensions and emotions that can be physically harmful if they are kept shut up inside of you.

Open communications are of vital importance to let others know what they can do this holiday season to make things more comfortable for you. There may need to be compromises on the part of all but you’ll never achieve them unless your needs are known. You may desire to hold to the “old traditions” even more firmly this year, or you may need to do things in a very different way. In either case, do what you need to do in order to honor the memory of your loved one.

Share happy memories of your loved one. It’s normal to do this and important for your family and friends to listen, encourage you and to share their own memories with you. Reminiscing is a normal part of the grief process and the holiday season only amplifies those memories and your feelings of loss.

Don’t feel you need to remain in mourning and close yourself off from the happiness of the season. While you shouldn’t pretend the emotions have vanished, allow yourself to enjoy the happy moments that arise—to experience joy in the midst of your grief. Your loved one would want you to find comfort in the love of family and friends and in the happy traditions of the holiday season.

Find occasions to be with family and friends. No doubt they are grieving in their own way and they want to be a help to you. Let them help. Grief shared is grief diminished.

Finally, look for opportunities to be helpful to others. Remember, it is more blessed to give than to receive.