Handling Grief through the Holiday Season
Holidays are often spent with our family and loved ones, when we are missing a loved one this time can be especially difficult. Grief and mourning are emotional and physical responses to loss. These are natural reactions and grief, however painful, is a path to healing. Bottling up whatever emotion you may be feeling will not help you come to terms with the loss. Whether it be your first holiday season without your loved one or your fifteenth, there is no limit on how long your grief should last. But, there are ways to both honor your grief and sense of loss, while celebrating as much as possible the holidays, and perhaps the memories that go with them.
The holidays come around for those in grief just as they do for those who are not, and for those in grief it might seem or feel easier to ignore the holiday season in its entirety. If ignoring the holiday will help you continue the process of grieving, then do it. They will come around next year or the following. But also, if the holidays provide a distraction, welcome it. The celebrating of holidays can be a sign of life continuing and the routine might provide a blueprint for you to get through them. A good way to try and enjoy the holidays is to have a Plan A and a Plan B.
Plan A could simply be trying to do some of the old traditions that you and your loved one had enjoyed during the season. Going to the holiday dinner with your family, watching traditional movies for the season. Perhaps you might feel up to doing all the old holiday traditions that you once did with your loved one. This can be a way to remember them, but only if you feel up to it.
If the old traditions feel to stifling, to difficult, this is where Plan B comes into play. Let’s say that you try and attend a holiday party, but quickly realize that the atmosphere is too much, too loud, too cheerful and you, in midst of your grief cannot handle it, it is better for you to get out of the environment in which you find yourself in distress. Trying to stay in a situation which agitates your grief rather than calming it can be more detrimental than helpful.
Plan B could be you simply spending time looking through old photo albums, putting on their favorite holiday songs, going to a place special to them or to a place where you remember them. Or perhaps starting your own traditions can be a way to heal during the holiday season. Going through the motions without any emotion does not help you heal from grief, nor does it help the people around you. Because as humans dealing with handling grief, sometimes the natural instincts when we are hurting is close off, pretend as although you are fine, even when we are not.
The holidays may never seem the same to you after loss, because they are not. The things that might have once held joy of the holiday may now be solemn reminders of what you have lost. If dealing with the holidays means putting off celebrating for a year, do it. They will be there for when you are ready for it. Grief changes things, loss changes you. So, if after loss and in the midst of grief, perhaps try find a new way to celebrate the holidays.
It is important to let your family and friends know how you are feeling, as they may be expecting everything to continue on the way things were. And that very well could not be an option, so try to be kind to yourself, do not feel bad for your grief, and perhaps in time, the holidays may become a time of remembrance, a rebirth of tradition, and maybe, just maybe, the grief for even a moment can be turned to laughter.