Anna knew there was no way around that first holiday season without her husband, so she determined to get through it by being intentional. Some family traditions were maintained; others were put aside, at least for that year. Instead of their typical trip to the Christmas tree lot, she drove her children to the mountains to cut down a tree and play in the snow. When they got it home, the eldest son stepped into Dad’s role of putting on the lights and all the children decorated it. The children insisted on including Dad’s special ornaments. On Christmas Eve, they again broke tradition. Instead of gathering with family, they went to the Christmas Eve service at church, and then out to eat. Being intentional and preparing for the holidays helped reduce Anna and her family’s stress and manage their grief.
Becky’s father had died three months before Christmas, and her mother’s health was failing. She had hoped that her siblings could set aside long-standing differences and celebrate the holidays together. Other family did not feel the same way, so Becky consciously chose to lower her expectations. She moved beyond her disappointment and found freedom in focusing on enjoying her husband, adult children, and mother.
Depending on your situation, consider the following holiday suggestions:
- Evaluate your traditional “to do” list, which might include decorating, baking, shopping, sending Christmas cards, and/or entertaining. Ask yourself, What can I skip this year? What would I like to revise for at least this season? Which traditions do I most want to include this year? Who could I ask to help me?
- Permit yourself to change your mind about attending a holiday celebration or to leave early if a surge of grief You may wish to write an explanatory note ahead of time, which you can leave on the counter or give to your host as you excuse yourself.
- Give yourself the gift of TLC. Listen to your body and meet your needs for rest, refreshment, nutrition, and nurture. Also give yourself time to release your emotions through tears, talking, journaling, exercising, looking at photos, or engaging in other healing activities.
- Remember your loved one by giving a gift in their memory; buying a special ornament; hanging a Christmas stocking for written memories or expressions of love; and/or lighting a memorial candle, which you might place by a framed photo.
Planning ahead and taking care of yourself can help you find comfort—and even joy—during the holidays.
Excerpted from Doses of Comfort, which contains further suggestions for the holidays and throughout the year. Available in print ($5.49) or on Kindle at Amazon.com.