As the temperatures begin to cool and the leaves on the trees begin to change colors, it becomes more evident that the holiday season is quickly approaching us all. Usually a time of year that brings joy to many people, is a painful reminder to those who will not be spending those cherished holidays with their loved ones who have passed. Losing a loved one is never easy, and there are no easy solutions to offer that can heal the pain- only time can do that. And even then, it remains a faded scar engrained in our hearts. However, there are a few tips that will not only help someone to learn how to cope with grief during the holidays but will also allow that person to honor their loved ones during this precious time that comes year after year.
1. Acknowledge that the holidays will be tough without your deceased loved one(s).
Unfortunately, denial will never grant you the opportunity to heal. The first step is acceptance. Mentally prepare yourself for any emotions that may surface during the holidays. Know that it is completely okay to feel this pain; be present in it. It might even help to keep a journal to further explore your emotions and transform your pain into something tangible- to release.
2. Accept that other people may not be grieving with you.
I’m sure this sounds harsh, but it’s a reality. When I lost my baby, all I could do was grieve and then become extremely angry when others did not understand my pain. Please do not do this to yourself. I’m speaking from a survival standpoint. Be mindful that you are valid in your pain, but others may not understand what you are feeling. It is perfectly healthy to lean on another loved one for moral support if you are respectful of the fact that they may not say or do the actions you consider to be the ‘right thing.’ And always say yes to those who offer support or help! It is coming from a loving place.
3. Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one(s) who have passed.
So many times, we focus on the death of someone. We grieve and morn their loss, and this is normal. But it is acceptable to celebrate their life as well. Creating a new tradition not only keeps their memory alive but allows you to continually feel connected to your loved one for years to come.
4. Seek therapy.
There is nothing wrong with acknowledging that you are not okay and need help sorting through those internal issues with a medically trained person. Often, emotions are at an all-time high during the holidays and may not be as easy to ignore compared to the rest of the year. Talk to someone. You deserve to take that load off your back.
5. Visit your loved one’s gravesite.
It sounds depressing, I know. But if you can handle to do this, it might be beneficial. Consider it a way to ‘catch up’ with your loved one. You can tell them about all the amazing things you have experienced this year, your holiday plans, your New Year’s resolutions, and so on. Tell them how much you miss them and are thinking of them. It is also an opportunity to bring a gift for them to leave at their gravesite during the holidays.
6. Join a support group.
Because not everyone may feel the same pain you are experiencing, sometimes it helps to speak with others who can relate. As humans, we have a vital need to connect to others. We crave it. We thrive off it. Not only are you able to vent to others who understand, you may be able to make new, meaningful relationships.
7. Be honest about how you feel.
This tip alone covers so much ground. Be honest about how you are feeling. Be honest with others if you do not want to engage in holiday activities or join others’ events. Be honest about wanting or needing help, someone to talk to. But most importantly, never feel guilty or apologize about your honest emotions! You must heal on your own time, in your own way. Those around you who love and support you will understand, especially considering the circumstances.
8. Remember to enjoy the holidays.
It is easy to become consumed with sadness during the holiday season without your loved one(s). But never forget the foundation of the holiday season- this foundation consists of love and joy. There is so much love and joy to be experienced during the holidays. I encourage you to feel these positive feelings. And once again, do not feel guilty for enjoying this season. Your loved one(s) would have wanted you to do the same. Honor them by celebrating life.
Sending so much love and light to those who are reading this column. For those who felt the need to read this because they are desperate for solutions- solutions to overcome the pain. You are not alone in your grief. You do not have to apologize for loving someone so much that it has completely interrupted your life in the most painful way. But I also want to tell you, that there IS life after death. Life continues; a constant that never stops moving. It is up to you to decide if you want to continue living it and not just existing. I read a beautiful quote while surfing the web that resonated deeply with me and I am hoping it brings comfort to those who need it. An unknown source states, “Perhaps they are not the stars in the sky, but rather openings where our loved ones shine down to let us know they are happy.” Your loved one(s) are at peace. With a kind heart and a virtual hug, I urge you to find your peace during this holiday season.
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