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. Discussing priorities together and preparing for the holidays helped Anna and her family reduce their 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.
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, consider the following suggestions for the holiday season.
- 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 you experience 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.
- When you notice your heart is feeling lighter and you catch yourself laughing, savor the moments without guilt. Your loved one would want you to delight in family, friends, and life as often as you can.
- 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.
It is natural to miss loved ones, especially during the holidays. However, by planning ahead, evaluating your needs, and taking care of yourself, you can find comfort—and even joy—during this season.
Excerpted from Doses of Comfort, which contains further suggestions for the holidays and throughout the year. Available in print or on Kindle at Amazon.com.