For many families, the holidays are about honoring long-standing traditions and creating memories. That can translate into discomfort for those who have had a painful loss of a loved one during the year. The best way to deal with grief during an ordinarily festive time of year is to feel all the feelings and not ignore them or stuff them down deep because they will inevitably come back. Grief doesn’t have to hijack your holidays or take center stage, but it can be thoughtfully woven into all of the hubbub and preparation. Some things to consider trying:
Brainstorm with your loved ones for a way to honor the person who passed away. ALL ideas are to be considered. Settling on a hybrid of some of the suggestions could be the most beautiful tribute.
Let yourselves enjoy the happiness that this time of year can bring. You don’t have to sit around like sad sacks for weeks as a sign of respect. You can smile and laugh and create new memories and appreciate life’s pleasures like good food, fine wine, and together time.
Be flexible about changing family traditions. Perhaps the grocery shopping, veggie chopping, and housecleaning aren’t’ what you or your relatives want to deal with this year. Consider doing something different, yet all together. Seriously, there is nothing wrong with watching a movie and eating take-out Chinese on Christmas Eve.
Start difficult conversations with the young ones in the family. Encourage them to talk about the person who passed and what they miss most of what they wonder most about what happened to them and where they went. You don’t have to have all the answers to their questions but giving them a platform to speak will be healing for them.
Try to stick with regular sleep, eating and exercising schedule. This is hard for ordinary people to do during the holidays but try your best. If you had strong routines before your loved one passed, keep following them as well as possible.
Remember, grief is a process. There is no one way to get through it. Honor your feelings and give yourself the time and space to process them. If you need to talk to your loved one often, and it upsets another family member, then phone a friend who can handle it. Don’t hold back if it makes you feel better. But there is a difference between sadness and depression. Call your health care provider if you are having difficulty sleeping, eating and coping.