Grief at the Holidays
By Jeff Long
Grief at the holidays can be a difficult or apprehensive time that individuals, families, and friends navigate after the loss of a loved one. Each of us grieves differently and there is no right or wrong decision on what to do. Remember that the way you want to spend the holiday may not match how others want to spend the holiday. Many times the first holiday after we have lost a loved one is awkward and tough and we may have many different feelings. Allow yourself to grieve and feel joy, sadness, and anger. To some, the anticipation of the holiday can be more difficult than the day itself.
One may want to be alone, decide to keep some traditions, pass on the traditions, or change the traditions. Some may choose to remember the loved one in a special way, go on a trip, or wish to be surrounded with family and friends. Do no more than what you want. Friends and relatives want to be supportive during the first holiday after your loss but may not be sure what to do or say. On the other hand, friends and relatives may think they know what’s best and try to get you to go along. Again, I remind you to do no more than what you want. Be gentle with yourself during the holiday. For those who do not know what to say to their friend, it’s okay just to invite him or her to your holiday celebration and be present to your friend. Or just go out for coffee. Many times your presence speaks more than words.
Sometimes individuals feel guilty if they celebrate a holiday now that their loved one has died. Experiencing laughter and joy doesn’t mean you have forgotten your loved one. To help make the holidays tolerable, acknowledge that the holidays will be different and difficult. Plan ahead of time what you want to do and communicate with your family and friends how you will spend the holiday. Ask for help if no one is offering and accept offers of shopping, decorating, and cooking. It’s okay if you don’t feel like sending holiday cards. Adults remember to support and talk with the children and grandchildren. They are grieving too. Ask them what they want to do.
There is a long list of ways to cope with the holidays. I will just mention a few:
- Light a candle.
- Share stories of your loved one.
- Make an ornament or get one with a picture of your loved one.
- Donate to a charity that was important to your loved one in his or her name.
- Visit your loved one’s gravesite and leave a decoration.
- Go on a trip with a friend.
- Look at photo albums during the holiday.
- Do something you loved to do together on that holiday.
- Have a moment of silence or a toast to honor your loved one.
- Have a meal with your loved one’s favorite foods.
- Donate flowers to your place of worship in memory of your loved one.
Remember there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holiday after the death of a loved one. The best way to cope is to plan ahead and accept support.