Festive cheer is in the air during the holiday season but for many, it can often feel more like the weather: cold and dark.
The holidays can be a difficult time especially for those who have experienced the loss of family or friends. Whether it’s the first year that you’re going through the holidays without a loved one or the tenth, for many the pain has a way or rearing its head around this time. There is no textbook way of dealing with loss just as there is no time limit on healing. That said, there are a few strategies and things to think about that can help get you through the holiday season.
The All or Nothing Approach
Some people prefer to just push themselves into difficult situations, knowing that at the end of the day, they’ll feel better for having made the effort. For example, you might push yourself to go back home after a long time away, to visit a grave, or talk about your feelings with others. That said, others would prefer to cancel plans and stay in to give themselves the space and time to heal. There is no right and no wrong. There are just different ways to cope.
Make Alternative Plans
If you’re not sure how you’ll feel on the day or what might work best for you, know that nothing has to be decided straight away. Many people find solace in a Plan A/Plan B approach. For example, you might say Plan A is going along to the regular Christmas dinner and trying to push through, while Plan B might be deciding that if things don’t feel right, you can go home and excuse yourself. You might feel more comfortable by simply putting one foot in front of another and attending whatever gathering you’ve been invited to safe in the knowledge that you will listen to yourself and leave or find a quiet room to be alone in if you need to. Try not to put pressure on yourself to have fun, to be happy and to get involved – you have all the right in the world to keep to yourself if you need to.
For some, going along with the yearly holiday tradition makes them feel like they’re continuing on with life, which is what their loved one would have wanted. For others, it feels saddening, uncomfortable or even eerie to participate in the same traditions when there is someone missing. If you feel like the latter, then don’t feel bad about cancelling plans or even starting a new tradition. You may also want to keep your loved involved by sharing stories, lighting a candle for them, looking through happy pictures or saying a prayer.
In whatever way you deal with loss, remember it’s your journey and no one can tell you the right way to grieve. Your friends and family might give you suggestions, but it’s your healing process. It’s not unlikely that those around you will be experiencing the same loss, so don’t be afraid to lean on them for support. On top of that, being careful to listen to how those around you feel can help you. Sometimes supporting someone else through loss can be a very special way of dealing with our own pain. It’s incredibly important to express how you feel, even if it’s just letting someone know in a few words that you’re not ready for anything. Likewise, try to create a safe environment around you so that others, particularly children, can feel encouraged to express how they feel. It’s normal to feel like nothing will ever be the same again, but even through grief we can find new meaning in life, in family, in friends and in the holidays.