The holidays bring with them a time of great joy and celebration with time-honored traditions and family gatherings, but for someone who has lost a loved one, this can be a time of great stress and great sadness. Looking at the empty chair at the dinner table, not having that person to share special moments with, or the realization that you will not buy a gift for this person can leave you feeling drained, alone and wishing you could ignore the holiday season. It is important to acknowledge that you have these feelings and that you may struggle to get through the holidays. Part of coping with holiday grief is taking some time to prepare in advance and ensuring that you have the support you need to get through this time.
Allow Yourself to Grieve
Grief is part of the healing process. To begin to heal, you must understand that you will experience grief. You may find moments of sadness as you go through the holidays, but you may also find moments of great joy in new events or in melancholy moments remembering your loved one while you gather with others. Talk about your loved one and talk about how you are feeling. If it is painful or you find that you break down in tears, remember that it is okay. Whatever you experience is part of your healing process.
Use Your Support System
Let your friends and family know that you need them during this time, even if you may not be the life of the party. Talk with loved ones about how you wish to celebrate and what traditions you wish to carry on or which you might wish to forego. Spend time telling stories, looking at old photos or reminiscing if that feels right or start some new traditions to create new memories. Stay in touch with others but also let them know there might be events you have to miss or times you may just need to be alone.
Practice Good Self-Care
Self-care is as important at this time as any time in your life. Eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and get plenty of rest. Remember that physical activity is a natural antidote for depression, so take walks and spend time outside if you can. If going out shopping seems overwhelming, then that is okay, you have other options. Try journaling as a way to express your feeling privately and work through them. Write your memories, your feelings, your memories or your plans. There is no right or wrong way to journal. Avoid over-indulging during this time as that can lead to feelings of guilt or shame that you do not want to add to everything else you are experiencing.
Giving to others often makes us feel better. Whether it is monetary donations to help someone less fortunate or volunteering time, helping others can help move you through depression and give you feelings of satisfaction and joy. During this time of year, opportunities abound. Only do what you can, of course, and don't overextend yourself financially or personally. From donating a few cans of food to a local food bank to serving a holiday meal at local shelter or even packing up donated toys for children, there are many options in the community to help out.
The most important thing to remember as you navigate the holidays is that what you are feeling is normal. Whether this is the first holiday without your loved one or just another in a line of many, grief is personal. I have over 30 years of experience helping people cope with grief. If you are feeling alone or need support during the holidays or anytime, I am here to help you work through the pain and get the joy back into your life again. Please contact me so that I can help you.