Grief over the loss of a loved one doesn’t stop simply because the holidays begin. In fact, sometimes feelings of grief can be stronger during this time of year.
It’s important to know that your feelings are important and that they matter. But they shouldn’t control you, and they shouldn’t make you feel guilty for enjoying the holidays and celebrating along with the joy the season brings.
Coming to terms with the loss of a loved one takes time, and it’s something that we live with our entire lives. We’ve put together a few tips to help you navigate your grief over the loss of a loved one during the holiday to help make this time of year feel a little less painful.
Prioritize your needs
No one knows you (and your personal experience with grief) better than you. When it comes to participating in different activities or attending events, you shouldn’t feel pressured. If you feel uncomfortable attending a certain party or gathering, know that it’s okay to not attend.
If you do feel obligated to attend an event, understand that you’re not required to stay the entire time. It’s okay to step away or leave early if your emotions get the better of you and you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed. The stress and sometimes chaos of the holidays can be overwhelming, that may mean planning some alone time over the holidays so you can perform some needed self-care.
Self-care means allowing you and your family to feel your natural emotions. It’s okay to laugh, cry, or even feel angry or upset — there’s no single right way to grieve the loss of a loved one. Give yourself permission to process your emotions.
Be prepared for grief
The holidays can often be more difficult because they remind us of time spent with our loved one. Oftentimes, we build up the significance of the holiday in our own minds, which can be more difficult to deal with than the actual day itself.
Prepare yourself ahead of time by understanding that grief is going to come whenever it wants. Dealing with grief is challenging in its own right, but getting anxious about trying to avoid your grief can make it more difficult. Instead, let your grief happen when it comes and allow yourself to feel your feelings.
Resisting your grief can make it more difficult to deal with and make things worse. Ultimately, it can completely change the way you feel about a holiday if you let it overcome you without dealing with it in a healthy way.
Continuing the tradition a loved one enjoyed participating in (or even started!) can be a cathartic experience. It allows you to feel connected to the person and it allows you to honor their memory.
Honoring a tradition during the holidays can also help prevent feelings of guilt that you may have over enjoying the holiday. Knowing that you’re keeping a tradition alive that your loved one cared deeply for can bring feelings of joy. It’s also a great opportunity to connect with children in your family to explain the significance of the tradition and allow them to feel a connection with the person who has passed.
Create new traditions
Simply because you’re honoring some traditions doesn’t mean you have to keep all of them. Trying to do things the way they’ve always been done can feel hollow, depressing or even downright awkward after a loved one passes away.
Talk with your family and think of ways that this holiday can be done differently, or find out what new traditions of their own they may want to start. You’ll find that you create new memories that are just as important to you as your old memories.
Supporting others can help alleviate feelings of sadness and grief during the holidays. Consider volunteering your time at a nonprofit of your choice or simply offering monetary or gift donations in the name of your loved one. Bringing joy to the life of another person can help bring joy to your own.
Ask for help
If you’re struggling with your grief over the holidays, you don’t have to go through it alone. Seek out friends, family, co-workers, or a therapist or other professional to help you process your grief.
When you do speak with someone, let them know exactly what you do and do not need from them — this can help them better support you. If someone offers to do something nice for you, truly consider taking them up on their offer and accepting their help. Accepting help from others when you’re grieving is not shameful — the people around you love you and want to help you!
If you or someone you know is struggling with grief over the loss of a loved one, our Bereavement team can help. We offer bereavement support groups, phone contacts and visits, and mailings during the holidays to help process your grief. Contact our hospice care team to find out more about bereavement services from Goshen Home Care & Hospice at 574-364-2700.