Remembering Our Loved Ones at the Holidays
While the death of a loved one is one of life’s most difficult times, the holidays can compound our sense of loss and isolation. When we're experiencing the pain of grief, the last thing we want to do is participate in any kind of holiday celebration. We want the pain to end, and we can’t imagine being around others at a time that is supposed to be full of joy when we are so burdened with sorrow.
This is a normal way to feel, but since we can’t cut out the calendar from late October through early Januaryof the next year, it might be helpful to modify our plans, and most especially to take good care of ourselves.
Consider the following suggestions:
When you family gathers for holiday meals, express remembrances of the loved one. Some people opt to eat out; others will prepare all of their loved ones favorites to honor their memory. Some people will volunteer to serve at a local soup kitchen or invite people they know who will be alone to share a meal. Other people will participate in other local charity activities, providing for those who would otherwise be without.
Accept the likelihood of your pain. Feel what you feel. Express your emotions to someone who will accept what you are thinking and feeling. A trusted friend, clergy or a professional counselor may be what you need. Jot those feelings down, and don’t judge them — writing simply gets them up and out.
Plan to remember your loved one in a way that has meaning, perhaps lighting a special candle, creating an ornament, giving a donation to a favorite charity in their memory and honor. Give yourself permission to remember and to think and feel, facing our loss is far less painful than trying to avoid it.
Be gentle with yourself. Get plenty of rest, stay well hydrated, and eat as healthy as you can, but do enjoy holiday foods! They are often another way of connecting to our loved one. Be around others who knew and loved your special person and reminisce. Let yourself laugh... it is one of the most overlooked aspects of grief. As we share stories, they almost always end up with laughter mixed in with the tears.
Stay in the present moment as much as possible, and remember to count your blessings. In spite of your sadness, acknowledge that the loved one you are grieving has left an indelible impression upon you, and know that in time your grief will soften.