Halloween has come and passed and stores have already begun to stock their shelves with holiday decorations. Classic Christmas albums will soon be echoing through shopping malls and fall pumpkin patches will be replaced by a multitude of pine trees. Holidays can be exciting this time of year, but they can also be difficult for those who are coping with the loss of a loved one.
For many people, holidays bring forth powerful memories and can often magnify feelings of mourning. Whether a loved one has passed recently or decades ago, losing someone special is never easy. When trying to cope with bereavement, is imperative to acknowledge that through grief comes healing.
Grief is expressed in so many different ways; there are no right or wrong ways. The following are some helpful tips to cope during the Holidays:
Allow yourself to experience emotions without judgement.Every single person is unique, experiencing the loss of a loved one and the period that comes after are no different. Allow yourself to experience a range of emotions from happiness to sadness without judgement. Expressing joy or laughter does not mean you have forgotten your loved one.
Take care of yourself. Do not force yourself to attend every holiday dinner party. It is okay to say no. Express your need to change plans, whether that means to spend some time alone to gather your thoughts or to participate in events with friends and close family. Surround yourself with those who love and support you. Most importantly, let others know if you are struggling, and even be brave enough to arrange an appointment with professional help if need be. Taking care of yourself should always be top priority.
Start a new tradition.During a holiday dinner, place a lighted candle on the dinner table, or leave an empty chair to remember your loved one’s place in your heart. Include a favorite dish or treats in your holiday meals. Share your favorite stories or say a few words of remembrance.
Help others.Make a donation to a favorite cause in memory of the person who passed. Arrange to give time, food or presents to less fortunate families/children, take a meal to a homebound elderly couple, or volunteer in a shelter or soup kitchen. Replace negative thoughts with positive actions. “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” –John Holmes
Most of us carry a mental picture of what a holiday should look like and this can often create a lot of pressure. Give yourself time to heal, and be patient. There is no predetermined time that says how long a grieving period should last for, but it should not last forever. Friends and family members may offer support, but it is ultimately your decision to keep moving, reach what is attainable, and do what feels right for you.
If you or a loved one is struggling with grief and would like to find online support, please visit: https://elliesway.org/They have a number of online support groups and resources to help.