Bereaved Families Corner
Coping With Grief During the Holidays
It is no surprise that holidays can be stressful. There are gifts to buy at crowded stores, friends and family to see, parties to go to (or host), traveling in possible wintry conditions, and dealing with possible financial strain. If you have suffered a recent loss, the holidays can become even more stressful.
Unfortunately, there is no fool-proof plan for coping successfully with your grief over the holidays. Grief is individual, and what helps heal one person may not be helpful to someone else. There is not a right or wrong way to handle holidays or other important family celebrations (e.g., birthdays, anniversaries) but there are things that you may find helpful.
The anticipation of the holiday typically is worse than the actual day. Plan ahead for how you will handle the holiday. If appropriate, discuss your plan with family and friends. You may decide to celebrate a particular event or holiday different than you usually would, such as by having a gathering at a different place or traveling instead of staying at home. You might consider doing something special in memory of your deceased loved one, such as setting a place at the table or visiting the gravesite.
Talk to loved ones how they can help you through this day, keeping in mind that they may be struggling too. Many people are well-intentioned and want to be helpful but are unsure how. Don’t pretend to be ok if you are not. Seek out support.
Educate yourself on the grieving process and on healthy grieving. You can read a book, attend a lecture, join a support group, or to for grief counseling.
Decide what you can and can’t do this holiday season. Maybe you will send out Christmas cards but not as many this year, or you might forego it altogether. Or if you typically have the holiday meal at your house, you may ask another family member to host instead.
Avoid excessive alcohol and/or medication use. Numbing the pain may help temporarily but typically will result in a longer more difficult grieving process.
Try to keep yourself as physically healthy as you can. Keep a regular routine of eating, sleeping and exercising.
Allow time to feel sad if you need to but let yourself enjoy the holiday too. This does not take away from your loss or mean that you did not care for the deceased.
Take some time for yourself if necessary. Holidays can be overwhelming and grieving can be exhausting. Some people like being around others while others prefer times of solitude when grieving. Avoid total isolation though, as this can lead to depression.
Seek professional assistance if you need it. Some people find that they can get enough support from family and friends, but others may need additional help from a qualified counselor.
If you don’t feel like putting up the large tree, or if you want to do this in addition to your regular tree: Decorate a small table top tree with your child’s favorite ornaments and special ornaments you may have to honor their memory or their favorite things and interests. Use a favorite small blanket or even an article of their clothing for the tree skirt. Place a picture or two of your child and other children.
This full article can be found here.