The holiday season is filled with cheery activities, traditions and social engagements. And yet, for those who mourn, the Holidays can arrive bearing an intensified sense of loss and sorrow.
Grief, at any time, can be overwhelming, but during the Holidays, it may seem that your grief has magnified to new dimensions, leaving you feeling raw, vulnerable, lonely, and isolated. Physically, you may feel as if you have less energy; grief can lower your resistance to illness. You may find yourself filled with emotion or feeling a sense of numbness to it all. Traditions that have given you joy in the past may leave you feeling hollowed out now.
This holiday season, be as gentle with yourself as you possibly can. Instead of pressuring yourself to soldier through and do all of the things you’ve done in the past, this is the time to take radical care of yourself. Even though you may choose to approach the Holidays differently this year, it doesn’t mean you are giving everything up forever. Next year, you may find yourself in a completely different place with your loss, having more energy for the things you choose to set aside this year. Even if not, learning to practice self-care during this holiday season can help you cope with grief year-long.
Here are some tips to consider for this particular season of mourning:
- Take it one day at a time, one decision at a time.
Know that you don’t have to do everything you’ve done in the past to celebrate the Holidays. Perhaps, you decide to take the year off from sending out Holiday cards, or maybe you choose to put out a few decorations instead of using all of them. Check-in with yourself to see which Holiday activities you want to keep this year, knowing that there’s always next year to do the rest.
- Give yourself permission to say yes and no to invitations.
Let your energy dictate what you decide to do. Let the host/hostess know that on the day of the event you may decide it doesn’t feel right after all even if you say yes today. Give yourself room to bow out – even if it’s at the last minute.
- Let others take the lead.
If you’ve always been the one to host and the party planner, ask someone else to be the point person this year. Rather than doing all the cooking, gift shopping, and preparation yourself, invite others to share the tasks and contribute.
- Make room for memories.
This holiday season, ask family and friends to bring a treasured memory of your departed loved one to gatherings, making space for storytelling. Set aside a table for displaying their pictures or favorite things. Consider hanging a stocking for them and inviting family members to leave a note inside it or eat one of their favorite foods. Remembering can help your loved one feel closer.
Take good care of yourself this holiday season. This may look different for everyone, whether you choose to rest more, pick healthy meals, take time out for quiet activities, or tap into your own creativity. Remember the things your loved one enjoyed about the season and do them if that feels comforting. Give yourself permission to focus on your own needs during this time. And, if you need to, ask for help, including seeking the support of a counselor, mentor, pastor, or trusted friend. With mindfulness and patience, you can face your grief during the Holidays and perhaps find some joy too.