As we approach the holidays I wanted to reprise my ‘How to get through the holidays list. It is difficult during the holidays when missing a loved one. Just know that you are not alone.
1) Take it easy. Be kind to yourself. No pressure needed.
2) Cherish the memories of better times. Set aside the sad ones.
3) Remember the good times.. And know that your loved one wants you to be happy.
4) Acknowledge your pain and then put your energy into honoring his or her memory.
5) Make new memories.The holidays are often difficult, stressful, and sad even for those not grieving. It isn’t about the ads you see in magazines or on TV. The way you feel about holidays comes from memories of your own childhood…some happy some sad. If you are grieving don’t try to live up to Madison Avenue’s version of the holidays. Do what you can.
6) Continue to include your loved one in your celebrations. We always put ornaments my son made or that were given to him on our tree.
7) Keep it light… laugh often…hug lots.
8) Eat healthy foods and make sure that you are getting enough exercise and sleep.
9) Volunteer to help others. It will make you feel good. You might want to invite your family members to join you in serving at a soup kitchen or giving away toys at a shelter or hospital.
10) Donate to a charity in memory of your loved one. Give to his or her favorite cause. In honor of my son Cory, we donate to childhood cancer charities and adopt families to help them have a Christmas.
11) Again, we all grieve differently.There is no right or wrong way to grieve (unless one is behaving in a self-destructive way). You need to face your grief. Do not try to ignore it.
12) Respect the coping style of those who are also grieving. Their style might be the opposite of yours but they are doing what they can manage too.
13) Don’t be afraid to talk about your loved one who died. Acknowledge his or her and do not be afraid of upsetting others in the process.
14) Create new rituals but do include your loved one. For example, at your family celebration ask each family member or friend to bring an item for a memory box. They could write a favorite memory, share a photo, write a poem or letter and then spend some time sharing each item. Place the items in the box that you all decorated or selected together. Each year add new items.
15) Listen to your body. Don’t push yourself too hard. Do what you can. If the death is very recent your first priority is to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your family.
16) Surround yourself with supportive, loving, caring people and then, if needed don’t be shy about asking for help. If you don’t have the energy or desire to get to your shopping, or get the house decorated or do any holiday baking, ask those supportive friends and family members for help. Or just let it go this year. You will survive.
17) If your loved one was self-destructive, please try to let go of your anger and judgment. Addiction is a disease like all others. You may believe he or she chose substance abuse over family and loved ones but don’t be so sure. Addiction is powerful. Focus on your good memories. Talk to a professional about your anger.
18) Suicide is hard on survivors. Many people think it is an act of selfishness but your loved one didn’t feel as if he or she had any options.Try to remember that he or she was in so much pain death was his or her only option.
Be well, and Happy Holidays!