By Guest Blogger: Kelly Daugherty, LCSW-R,
The holidays are a time that is supposed to be spent with family and friends. When a death occurs, holidays may become quite difficult and overwhelming for some grieving individuals. Some people may want to skip the holidays if the death was recent and some people may want to keep the traditions alive as a way to remember their loved one. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays if you are grieving. Decide what is best for you and don’t feel pressured to do something you don’t want to do. Here are some ideas of things you can do over the holidays to help you cope as well as honor and remember your loved one.
- Attend a Coping with the Holidays event in your area. Most Hospices offer something like this. A simple google search should help you find local events like this.
- Set healthy boundaries- Don’t let anyone force you to do something you don’t want to do. There are no set rules that must be followed- you can change traditions even if it is just for this year. Set limits for yourself with your time and energy. Communicate with others about how they can best support you during this difficult time. Allow others to support you and love you.
- Lean into your grief. As I have said in many of the past blogs in this series, the best thing you can do is to lean into your grief rather than trying to avoid your feelings.
- Take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest. Do things for self-care like bubble baths, go to the Salt Den, Float Tank or go for a massage.
- Honor your loved one in your holiday celebration. Some examples of how to incorporate your loved one include:
- Light a remembrance candle nightly.
- Say a special prayer or read a poem before the meal.
- Set a special place setting at the table to honor him/her.
- Buy a special ornament for the tree with their picture.
- Hang the persons stocking and have people write about a special memory of your loved one and fill the stocking with these memories.
- Create a remembrance table with pictures and belongings of your loved one.
- Do something for someone else. Adopt a Family for the holidays and donate the items in memory of your loved one. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, visit a nursing home or make a donation in your loved one’s name.
- Journal about your feelings, write a letter to your loved one.
- Take it a day at a time, sometimes even just a minute at a time. It’s ok to change your mind about what you had planned or didn’t have planned even at the last minute. Practice self-compassion and don’t be too hard on yourself if you have to leave an event early or decide not to go at the last minute.
- Limit alcohol consumption as this may intensify the difficult feelings.
- Create new traditions.
- Practice gratitude and be grateful for all of the holidays you did get to share with your loved one.
- It’s ok to enjoy the holidays and smile and laugh and share happy memories of your loved one with your family and friends. Although the holidays without your loved one may be hard, they may also be a time of peace and joy.
I hope that you are able to have happy moments during this holiday season and reach out to others including a grief counselor for support if you need to.