The tree is decorated, stockings hung, twinkling lights and vibrant colors are everywhere. Your calendar is full of holiday parties, the to-do list is long, and the music of the season speaks of joy to the world and how it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yet all that fills your mind is the void of someone you loved and lost. In the past two years, the Parenting Program team of staff, students and volunteers have experienced some significant, sudden and tragic losses. The Christmas season after loss can bring a tremendous amount of grief, during a time when the general expectation is that everyone is feeling holly jolly and full of the holiday spirit. Everyone copes differently; for some people, surrounding themselves with family and their traditions is a comfort, for others it magnifies the loss.
Here are some tips for coping with grief during the holidays. Some you may love, others not so much. My hope is that you may find something here that makes this difficult season a tiny bit more tolerable, and that there are moments of joy even amid missing those who are gone.
“Someday soon, we all will be together, if the fates allow. Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow.”
- Acknowledge that the holidays will be tough and verbalize this to friends and family.
- Consider what traditions you would like to keep, and what traditions you may want to change, even if just temporarily.
- Create a new tradition to honor the memory of your loved one.
- Purchase a candle and when you turn on the lights of your Christmas tree, light the candle in memory of the person you lost.
- Think about the location of your holiday celebration. Make a conscious decision whether you want to keep it the same or make a change.
- Keep in mind that not everyone will be grieving the same way you are.
- Put out a memory box with small slips of paper and pens so people can write a treasured memory. Take some time to read the memories aloud, or invite guests to read them individually.
- Prepare one of your loved one’s special recipes, or something that was a favorite of theirs.
- Be honest about how you are feeling, and what you do and do not want to do when it comes to holiday gatherings and celebrations.
- Participate in a service project or activity in honor of your loved one.
- Make an appointment with a counselor or therapist. Maybe this has been something you have putting off, but with the holidays bringing grief even closer to the surface, it may be a perfect time.
- Consider choosing a few of your loved one’s belongings and gifting them to someone else who is grieving the loss.
- Visit your loved one’s final resting place and leave a wreath or poinsettia.
- Ask for and accept help, whether it is assistance cooking a holiday meal, shopping or emotional support.
- Give yourself a gift. Treat yourself to something you have had your eye on.
- Focus on gratitude. Even if it is something tiny, make a point to write down one thing you are grateful for each day.
- If you have children who are grieving along with you, be sure to talk to them about what they may be feeling and consider doing a memorial grief activity or craft together.
- Say no. If a certain event or gathering just seems too much, give yourself permission to skip it.
- Don’t feel guilty for the moments of happiness and joy you may feel throughout the season; it doesn’t mean you don’t love or miss the person who is not with you this holiday season.
– Kelly Ryan, LMSW, Beaumont Parenting Program Director