Losing a loved one is never easy. Whether you are still reeling from the immediate impact of loss or you are several years into your grief journey, the holidays can be a particularly intense time. The loss of a loved one impacts family traditions, and their absence can amplify sorrow. As you decide how you will celebrate this season with grief, It's important to remember that there is no "right way" or "wrong way" to grieve. Being honest and patient with your journey by taking proactive steps to navigate the holidays is critical to handling grief during the holidays.
Here are four tips to navigate the holiday season:
1. Understand That it Won't Be the Same
One of the most beautiful things about the holiday season is celebrating with friends and family. However, it can be daunting to think about festive traditions in their absence. When you are new to grief due to the recent loss of a loved it is customary also to mourn the loss of the way things used to be. The first step to dealing with grief during the holidays is acknowledging that life will never be the same. Recognizing that your next chapter won't include your loved one's physical presence can be painful, but it doesn't mean there can't be joy in the season. Accepting that this new phase of your life will be inherently different is the first step to dealing with grief during the holidays.
2. The Calendar Doesn't Change: Be Ready
Christmas will always be December 25. It should be no surprise that the holiday season can trigger sorrow, even if it's been some time since your loved one has passed—plan for this potentially intense time by being in control of your calendar. First, choose which events are important to you and set them as non-negotiables. Next, triage every other request for your time and attention and decide if you want to grant it a place on your schedule. As you triage requests, it is an excellent time to wield the power of “NO.” After your predetermined non-negotiables, you are under no obligation to grant space to every person or activity that would like to have your attention. The surest way to avoid overwhelm is to protect your calendar to protect your heart and energy while you grieve.
3. Special Attention to Self-Care: Body, Mind, and Spirit
Processing through grief is a holistic activity that impacts the body, mind, and spirit. Creating an optimized physical, mental and spiritual environment during the holiday season is especially important if you are grieving. Putting yourself in the best position possible to whether the storm is critical when you know you'll be going through an intense season.
Focus on quality nutrition. No, you don't have to go on a crazy diet but make food choices that nourish your body with clean food to fuel your day. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate to keep your body functioning at its best and your mind clear.
While learning to live with your grief, it's very common for your executive function to suffer, especially if your loss is very recent. Use tools such as your calendar, to-do list, and other supports to help make it through the day.
If you find yourself stuck or feel like your brain doesn't work the way you want it to, pause while you drink a glass of water. After that, do the next right thing on your list until you make it through your day.
Finally, it's crucial to maintain your spiritual well-being during this time. Preserving time in your day to practice gratitude, engage in prayer or meditation is essential.
4. Honor Your Loved One
As you process grief during the holidays, we find it helpful to find a way to honor your loved one. Simply because a person has died doesn't mean you ought never to mention, speak of, or think about them ever again.
Some people add a new tradition to their holiday fun, such as planning a dinner with your loved one's favorite foods, decorating their memorial site, or hosting a movie night with friends and family to enjoy their favorite show. Other ideas include putting up a commemorative ornament on the Christmas tree or dedicating the flowers on your holiday table centerpiece in memory of your loved one.
Grief is Not "One Size Fits All”.
Remember, it's not about overcoming grief but learning how to cope with the death of a loved one. Allow yourself to feel joy, sadness, and even anger while grieving a loss. It is essential to recognize that every family member has their unique way of dealing with grief and loss and may have different needs related to celebrating the holidays. No one way is right or wrong. Give yourself permission to be in control of your experience. Communicate your needs to the people closest to you, and remember that allowing yourself to experience joy and laughter during the holiday season can happen even while you grieve.
The Celestis Family wishes you the very best and hopes you find peace and joy during this holiday season.
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