Holidays are filled with traditions, but when someone who used to share those moments has died, it can be particularly challenging to manage grief during the holiday season.
Mental and physical preparations are the best tools for managing the feelings that may accompany holidays. While family members, particularly children, may want things to be as they’ve always been, the reality is things have changed. It can also be a time to create new traditions and memories that honor the absent loved one.
Consider this advice from the National Funeral Directors Association to help navigate grief this holiday season.
First, get plenty of rest. The holiday season pulls people in many directions, and that busyness can mean getting less sleep than needed. Being tired, however, not only has a physical impact on how someone feels, it can affect their ability to process emotions.
Next, they should give themselves permission to take a break. No two people process grief and loss the same way; only they know their limits. Even in a season filled with obligations and commitments, know that it’s OK to set boundaries and remove holiday reminders and triggers. It may mean flipping the channel on the TV or bypassing the holiday display at the store. Taking care of themselves when someone is grieving isn’t just about finding comfort, it’s also about avoiding discomfort.
Be realistic with any commitments. Even though they may be the one who hosts the family’s holiday celebration every year, if others offer to take responsibility, let them. Allow loved ones to help, and if they don’t volunteer, don’t be afraid to ask.
Look for tangible ways to express feelings. So much of grief is internal as a person manages numerous thoughts and emotions, but physical expressions of those memories and feelings can help them process it all. A package like the Remembering A Life’s self-care box contains several resources to help people take care of themselves. It includes a journal, a rose quartz stone that promotes relaxation, a water bottle to remind them to stay hydrated, a jar to hold written memories of the loved one, a candle, a dragonfly keychain symbolizing hope and comfort and an essential oil roller.
Also, the grieving person should try verbalizing how they’re feeling. Manage expectations by telling family and friends how these feelings about the holiday and what to expect from them. Also they could let their family and friends know what they need from them. If talking about a loved one brings comfort, let them know that the stories and memories are appreciated. If it hurts, ask that they refrain.
Honor these feelings and needs. As most people who have experienced loss know, grief comes in waves. The only way to process grief is to ride one wave to the next. It may mean putting off holiday shopping for a day when feelings are less emotional or bowing out of an event they planned to attend.
Include the loved one in the holidays. There’s no right or wrong way to incorporate a loved one’s memory; that all depends on what feels right to each person. It may mean serving their favorite dish, placing a photo on the mantel or simply slipping a memento into a pocket and touching it when they’re feeling overwhelmed.
Find more advice to help navigate the way through a loss at www.rememberingalife.com.