Here we are again. It is that time of year again. You may find yourself more sensitive, irritable, less patient, and sad right now. The first few years after your loss, you expect to feel poorly on birthdays and holidays – mainly because others have warned you. You don’t expect it to start weeks prior, though. So, if you are feeling out of sorts more than usual, take a deep breath to calm yourself and try to focus on a happy memory of a good time that you shared with your loved one. It may take lots more deep breaths and good memories, but this should help. I know it does for me. Sad times, deep breathing, and happy memories are all part of the grief process.
Here are 18 tips to help you get through the holidays. If you think of any others, please send them my way for next year’s list.
1) Take it easy. Be kind to yourself. No pressure is 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 complicated, stressful, and sad even for those not grieving. For some trying to live up to the ads, in magazines or on TV, it is impossible. So, give yourself a break. The way you feel about holidays cab derive from memories of your childhood…some happy, some sad. If you are grieving, take it easy. Do what you can.
6) Continue to include your loved one in your celebrations. We always put ornaments my son made or owned 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 a hospital.
10) Donate to a charity in memory of your loved one. Donate 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 lovely 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 fearful of upsetting others in the process.
14) Create new rituals and be sure to 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 your loss is very recent, your priority is to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your family. Get lots of rest.
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 go shopping, or get the house decorated, or do any holiday baking, ask friends and family members for help. Or just let it go this year. Do not pressure yourself to do things for others if it is too much for you.
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 how can you be 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 total selfishness, but your loved one must have felt as if he or she could no longer cope. Try to remember that he or she was in so much pain for death to seem like the only solution left. Try to focus on the good times. (Please understand, I am not saying that you are not entitled to your anger. I just don’t want it to damage your ability to enjoy yourself and your loved ones.)
Be well, and God bless,
Mahalo to Cole Ciarlello for the beautiful photo!