Dealing with grief at the holidays

December 22, 2016 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

The holidays are supposed to be a joyous time of year, right? After all, this is when we get together with the people we love the most. But what if one of them is no longer here?

When you’re grieving a lost loved one, the holidays can magnify the loss and make you miss them even more (if that’s possible).

So how do you get through the holidays when you are grieving?

First understand that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. And there’s no right way to celebrate the holiday season after a loss.

Try to acknowledge and accept your grief. Let’s face it, this isn’t going to be easy. Pretending you aren’t hurting, or keeping your feelings bottled up, will only prolong your grief. If you need to cry, do it. Allow yourself to grieve, and talk about your feelings with those who will listen.

Then, understand that your holidays aren’t going to be the same. This new life without your loved one is going to be different, so the holidays will be different too. It helps if you can try the holidays in a new way, and not expect too much.

You should also decide what you can handle. If you need to limit your social obligations, then do it. Have a plan just in case. Maybe your plan is to leave early, limit the time spent, or have a smaller gathering instead.

Most importantly, don’t isolate yourself — although it can be tempting. Lean on the support of others. Sometimes talking about your loved one and sharing memories helps ease sadness.

Doing something in memory of your loved one can also be comforting. Here are some ways to commemorate your loved one at the holidays:

  • Light a candle in honor of your loved one.
  • Create a tribute for them (e.g., a photo collage, poem, etc.).
  • Put a bouquet of flowers on the holiday table in their memory.
  • Have a moment of silence during your holiday toast.
  • Say a prayer about your loved one before dinner.
  • Have everyone share a favorite story about your loved one.
  • Remember them in prayer at your place of worship.
  • Create a memory box and fill it with photos or written notes.
  • Make a decorative quilt using images that remind you of your loved one.
  • Visit the cemetery and decorate the memorial site.
  • Place a commemorative ornament on the Christmas tree, dedicate a Hanukkah candle in memory of your loved one, etc.
  • Play your loved one’s favorite music.
  • Watch their favorite movie.
  • Give a donation or a gift in memory of your loved one.

It’s natural to feel you will never enjoy the holidays again now that your loved one is no longer here. But just because the holidays aren’t the same, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be special in new ways.

They say time heals all wounds, and it’s true. In time, you will be able to laugh again at a holiday dinner. And when you do, it doesn’t mean you have forgotten your loved one or no longer miss them. It just means your heart, although scarred, is beginning to heal.

How do you honor a lost loved one? Share with us in the below comments.

If you find that your grief becomes overwhelming, or is preventing you from going about your daily life, it’s time to get help. Get support from Linden Oaks Behavioral Health.

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