After someone you love dies, life seems forever altered. In the weeks and months following a death it may seem difficult to make it through even the most mundane of days, let alone work up the strength to face special days and holidays.
-- A Practical Guide for Grieving During the Holidays
With the holiday season upon us, families begin thinking about the rituals and traditions that have formed their own personal history. However, for those who have lost someone important, all the things that were once enjoyed may now become triggers for sadness and emotional stress.
If you’re wondering how to handle the upcoming holidays without your loved one, grief counselors recommend that the best thing is to plan ahead. While there’s no way to avoid having to deal with the pain or sadness, a family discussion with those you will be spending the holidays with can minimize the stress of difficult situations. Through open lines of communication, everyone can acknowledge their anxieties, expectations, hopes and needs.
The hardest decisions may be whether to change or skip a particular family tradition. When a loved one dies, there may be a strong desire to keep your family traditions the same because you believe this will create a sense of comfort for you and your family. The idea of letting go of these traditions may feel like you’re giving up on the life you had when your loved one was still alive.
When a family member dies, everyone must acknowledge that things will be different. Traditions your loved one used to be involved with will have to change and even those they weren’t a part of may seem entirely too difficult to manage.
As you face these newly altered holidays, the grief support professionals from What’s Your Grief (www.WhatsYourGrief.com) offer these tips for surviving the season with some optimism and an opportunity for a renewed sense of spirit.
Acknowledge that holiday traditions may have to change.
Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one.
Decide where you want to spend the holidays. If it doesn’t feel right to keep the holiday location the same, choose a new place.
Make a new holiday photo album with pictures and memories from holidays past.
Remember that not everyone grieves the same way you are grieving.
Light a candle in your home in memory of the person you’ve lost.
Invite your family and friends to a holiday potluck. Ask guests to make a dish that your loved one liked.
Be honest. Tell people what you DO want and what you DON’T want to do.
Donate to a cause in your loved one’s name. Choose a charity your loved one would have supported.
Most importantly, don’t feel guilty about your holiday-related decisions. Change is okay. Families change plenty of times over the years and traditions can adapt accordingly. The key is to find meaningful and lasting ways to remember your loved ones and allow them to continue to play a role in your holiday celebrations.