The stockings are hung by the chimney with care, but what do you when someone you love won’t be there?
The holidays inspire a joyous feeling with the lights, music and festivities. And, many are lucky to spend quality time with family and friends. It’s a time of gift-giving, great food and sharing old memories while making new memories.
If you recently lost someone, it’s hard not to notice their absence, especially if this is the first Holiday Season you are spending without them. You may feel pressure to feel happy while still going through the grieving process. It’s not always easy to know how to grieve for your family member, but also be there for the other surviving members of your family. I am hoping to provide some balance.
I know this feeling well. I lost my Grandfather right before the holiday season one year. My father decided he didn’t want to celebrate and we honored his feelings. So, we shared a very quiet holiday that year. Every year at Christmas, I can’t help but remember and notice the family members that are missing during our celebrations. But, I try not to let it put a damper on the holiday. Instead, we share happy stories about them.
The most important thing you can do is not try to shut off the grieving feelings, but you also don’t have to let them dictate how you spend the holiday.
Know When to Say When- In the past, maybe you were the one who did everything. You hosted all the events or did all the shopping. You may have been fully immersed in the holiday. You may find that you don’t have the energy to do everything. You have to let this be okay. Ask others to step in for you and take on duties. Or, cut your events in half. Find ways to make it easier to participate, but also give yourself time to recover.
Give Yourself a Right to a Timeout- You may find yourself talking about the person you miss more than you expected or are ready to because of well-meaning relatives. Give yourself the right to walk out the room and gather yourself. Give yourself the freedom to leave early or leave altogether, if you feel overwhelmed. If you are close to someone, let them know that you may have to excuse yourself and they can explain your absence to others. But, don’t feel bad if you need to escape. Be sure to take your own car or have a UBER ready, so you aren’t waiting for a ride. Also, be careful of using alcohol to cope.
Don’t Hibernate- You may be thinking, why not just skip everything altogether? It might be easier to just avoid the holidays completely, but that is no healthier than pushing yourself to participate in everything. Your lost one wouldn’t want you to wallow in grief and completely miss out on connecting with others who are also grieving their loss. Remember, you are not alone in this loss. Which leads to the next part…
Share Happy Memories– I have found the easiest memories to share even when you are grieving are funny memories. Comedy is the opposite of tragedy for a reason. If you can recall common funny memories or swap funny moments others shared with the person, it can relieve the heaviness of the loss. And, you may still find yourself crying, but they will be tears of laughter and joy at how beloved the person was and how they made everyone better.
Whether you are grieving a loved one, the end of a relationship or some other loss, be patient and kind to yourself. Over time, the pain will lessen and it will be easier to think or talk about it, but don’t try to rush yourself through the process. And, don’t allow anyone else to rush you through the process, no matter how well-meaning they may be. And always remember the gift they gave you by sharing the years of their life with you.