The holidays are here and whether you like it or not, it is hard to walk a block without being surrounded by all sorts of reminders; festive music playing, lights, decorations in shop windows, to name just a few. There may have been a time when all of this holiday cheer delighted you, but now you find yourself irritated and hurt by it. Why? Because you’re grieving. The death of someone you loved was already unbearably difficult, but the holidays seem to make it just that much harder. Their absence becomes magnified and although you know that it is not everyone’s loss, somehow other’s joy and happiness can feel like a slap in the face. How can everyone act as if everything is normal and just another wonderful time to celebrate when your whole world has been turned upside down? In fact, it is hard to imagine ever enjoying another holiday season again. Perhaps this resonates with what you are feeling right now or something you can remember from years gone by. So what can we do to make it through the holidays?
Here are few suggestions that might help, if only a little.
1. Surround yourself with people that you love and that will support you in your time of grief. People that understand what you are going through and that will give you what you need.
2. Try to take care of your physical needs – enough sleep, good food, exercise, moderation around caffeine, sugar and alcohol, and drinking plenty of water.
3. Consider creating new traditions if the ‘usual’ way of celebrating seems too painful and triggering (this may be a different location, a different activity).
4. Allow yourself 10 or 15 minutes each day that you set aside specifically to reflect upon the person that has died. This can be looking at pictures, listening to music, writing in a journal, writing them a letter, talking with a friend or family member about memories of them or simply letting your self have a cry.
5. Create a ritual to honour the person’s memory. This can be a special ornament, a candle, making their favourite dish, or anything else that will be personal and meaningful to you.
6. When accepting an invitation, let the host know that you will do your best to be there or that you may have to leave early as you don’t know how you are feeling day to day – this can reduce stress and anxiety.
7. Refrain from taking on too much, even if it is your normal role. Ask others for help or to be the host this year, or go out and leave the cooking to a restaurant.
8. Find a support group if you feel that talking to others that are going through something similar will be helpful to you.
9. Trust yourself. Be gentle to yourself. Let others help you and let them know exactly what you need.