Holidays are filled with traditions, but when someone you used to share those moments with has died, managing grief during the holiday season can be particularly challenging.
Mental and physical preparation are your best tools for managing the feelings that may accompany holidays. While family members, particularly children, may want things to be as they’ve always been, the reality is things have changed. It can also be a time to create new traditions and memories that honor your absent loved one. Here is some helpful advice.
- Get plenty of rest. The holiday season pulls people in many directions, and that can mean getting less sleep than you need. However, being tired not only has a physical impact on how you feel, it can affect your ability to process emotions.
- Permit yourself to take a break. No two people process grief and loss the same way; only you know your limits. Even in a season filled with obligations and commitments, know that it’s OK to set boundaries and remove yourself from holiday reminders and triggers. That may mean flipping the channel on the TV or bypassing the holiday display at the store. Taking care of yourself when you’re grieving isn’t just about finding comfort, it’s also about avoiding discomfort.
- Be realistic with your commitments. You may be the one who hosts your family’s holiday celebration every year, but if others offer to take responsibility, let them. Allow loved ones to help, and if they don’t volunteer, don’t be afraid to ask.
- Look for tangible ways to express feelings. So much of grief is internal as you manage numerous thoughts and emotions, but physical expressions of your memories and feelings can help process it all. A package like the Remembering A Life Self-Care Box contains several resources to help you take care of yourself. It includes a journal, a rose quartz stone that promotes relaxation, a water bottle to remind you to stay hydrated, a jar to hold written memories of your loved one, a soothing candle, a dragonfly keychain symbolizing hope and comfort, and a soothing essential oil roller.
- Verbalize how you’re feeling. Manage expectations by telling family and friends how you’re feeling about the holiday and what they can expect from you. Also let them know what you need from them. If talking about your loved one brings comfort, let those around you know you appreciate the stories and reminiscing. If it hurts, ask that they refrain.
- Honor your feelings and needs. As most who have experienced loss know, grief comes in waves. The only way to process grief is to ride one wave to the next. That may mean putting off your holiday shopping for a day when you’re feeling less emotional or bowing out of an event you planned to attend.
- Include your loved one in the holidays. There’s no right or wrong way to incorporate your loved one’s memory; that all depends on what feels right to you. It may mean serving his or her favorite dish, placing a photo on the mantel or simply slipping a memento in your pocket so you can touch it when you’re feeling overwhelmed.