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Season’s Grieving: How to Cope with the Holidays After Losing a Loved One
Though a source of joy for many, the holidays present a special challenge for those who are grieving. Drawing on its experience helping people through the grief process, Treasure Coast Hospice offers these suggestions for coping with grief during the holidays:
Eat and Sleep
Health and well-being depend on proper eating and sound sleep, but when we face difficulties, these are usually the first routines to go. Be sure to make eating and sleeping your top priorities. If appetite and sleep difficulties persist, seek medical consultation.
Trust Your Wisdom
Each of us has the capacity to overcome difficulties, and within us is the knowledge of how to do so. Each person’s journey through grief and the holidays will be as unique as the loving relationship they mourn. Listen to the inner guide that tells you what you need, what you can do, and what you are not ready to attempt.
Be Honest and Gentle
Difficult emotions are part of the grief process, but are often unwelcome at holiday celebrations. You may feel pressure to try to avoid or hide your feelings, but the best way to cope is to acknowledge and embrace them. Be honest with yourself and others about what you are feeling.
Learning about the grief process is one of the most important things you can do to help yourself. If you know what to expect, you will be better prepared to deal with a loss.
Reflect on Rituals and Traditions
Traditions and rituals exist at the core of every society to transmit values and beliefs from one generation to the next. After a loss, there is a tendency to either continue holiday traditions without change or to impose a moratorium on them.
Unfortunately, these valiant efforts to keep going or to shut the world out don’t stop the pain of loss. Instead of taking an all-or-nothing approach, reflect and acknowledge the presence of your loss. Consider what holiday traditions you observe and what they mean to you, then give yourself permission to discontinue activities that don’t fit anymore.
Consider Starting New Traditions
Many people find it helpful to incorporate a new tradition to honor loved ones who are no longer here. Some ideas include:
• Talk openly and honestly about the loved one who is not present. What are your favorite memories of holidays spent together? What special contribution did he or she bring to festivities?
• Create a space for holding thoughts about your loved one. Write your thoughts down and select a time to read and reminisce over the notes.
• Make your loved one’s favorite holiday food. Talk about how this became a holiday tradition.
• Purchase a live tree or plant. Lovingly decorate it, plant it and nurture it in the coming years.
• Continue the legacy of the love you shared by exchanging gifts. Purchase a gift FOR your loved one and donate it to someone in his or her name. Purchase a gift FROM your loved one that will comfort you during your season of loss.
• Say a prayer, light a candle or place a picture of your loved one in a special place to acknowledge their continued presence on this day.
Recognizing, expressing, and accepting a loss is fundamental to the healing process. The most important thing is to remember to care for yourself each and every day. That alone will go a long way to healing as you find comfort in fond memories and renewed meaning in the season.