Grief and the emotions that accompany the loss of a loved one is an agonizing experience and during the holidays it can seem like an overwhelming ordeal. Celebrating at a time when we’re experiencing deep sorrow seems callous and meaningless. The noise and activity that’s part of the season can appear shallow and discordant.
Life as we knew it has changed and that in turn requires that we make adjustments. We may need to reassess our attitude toward the holidays and decide how involved we want to be as well as modify old traditions or establish new ones. Being prepared and understanding what to expect can help minimize stress and enable us to get through the holidays. Below are a few suggestions.
Acknowledge Your Feelings
Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. Don’t assume you have to feel or behave a certain way. Tears can be a healthy release.
Prayer and Praise
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.” (James 5:13)
God is faithful. He knows your pain and is sustaining you through it. Write down and post bible verses in highly visible areas that speak of God’s love and mercy such as: Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:18 and Psalm 145:14. Praise lifts up our hearts and glorifies God. Read Psalm 34:1, and 1 Timothy 1:17.
Take care of yourself
Adequate rest and a healthy diet are important. Know your limit and don’t push yourself to do more than you’re able. Say no to activities that are more than you can handle. Take time to be alone and spend time in prayer and meditation, take a walk, read a book or listen to soft music.
If you need to buy gifts consider shopping online. This allows you to shop at your own pace and at a time that’s convenient for you without the noise and demands of a busy mall. Gift cards simplify the process even more and most people enjoy receiving them.
Limit holiday decorating or skip it altogether. If you want to put up a few decorations ask a friend or family member that understands your situation to help you.
If you’re used to entertaining you might consider limiting the number of guests and include only close family and/or friends or consider skipping entertaining altogether and accept invitations instead.
Invite family and friends to share their memories of your loved one out loud or consider hanging a stocking or having a special box available where guests can drop their comments.
Ask for help
Getting help and support from others that understand your situation will make a big difference. Tell others what you need most whether it’s someone to listen to you or someone to help you with a chore.
Join a grief support group. It will help you to realize that you’re not alone in your sorrow. Listening to the experiences of others and learning what has helped them can encourage and comfort you.
Make a Difference
Helping others can help take the focus off yourself and your pain. Places such as nursing homes, homeless shelters and hospitals welcome volunteers. Helping a friend or family member who’s struggling can be just as beneficial.
Comparing your family to other families is futile and can lead to frustration. Each family is made up of unique individuals. Find what works best for your family and celebrate with that in mind rather than trying to imitate others.
Remember others are grieving also
Other people are grieving the loss of the family member or friend along with you. They need your support as much as you need theirs. Asking how you can help and making yourself available is important to them and you.
Rejoice for what you have
Although it may seem like it at times, your loss is not the entirety of your life. Consider the blessings that are still yours to enjoy (i.e. faith, friends, family, job, home, health, etc.) and appreciate them.
Know that you will survive
As painful as the loss is—you will survive. You will also get through the holidays and when you do you’ll be stronger and able to help others.
Keep in mind…
You don’t have to enjoy or even participate in the festivities. And you certainly don’t have to pretend to enjoy them. On the other hand, it’s equally permissible to participate and enjoy yourself. Allow joy to happen naturally. The most wonderful gift you can give anyone you love, even someone that’s no longer with you, is to live your life fully in God’s abundance.
Keeping a daily journal can be a way of getting and staying in touch with your feelings. Write as much or as little as you want. Even a sentence or two will help you stay focused and give your perspective.
Whether you choose to celebrate the holidays in a new way or you choose to forego celebrating altogether, keep in mind that life is filled with new possibilities. Even changes that we didn’t invite or want to happen can be opportunities for growing and exploring new avenues that we might not otherwise have considered.