The Holidays are traditionally a time of celebration, joy, and family reunion. The absence of your loved one, however, is often more strongly felt during this time of year.
As you head in to the holidays, make your plans firm enough to support you and flexible enough to leave you some freedom. Most importantly, take time to love and be loved. Here are some strategies that may help:
- Be kind to yourself: It’s important to take good care of yourself physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Nothing you do will make a bigger difference than respecting yourself, your needs and your feelings. Take care of your physical self by eating properly, exercising (even just going for a short walk), and getting enough rest. Nurture your social self by staying connected to others -- your friends and family who care about you. Take care of your emotional self by expressing your feelings. Nourish your spiritual self through prayer, meditation, nature, or your faith community.
- Make a plan: Grieving people have definite limitations - you do not function at normal capacity. Evaluate your priorities and decide what is truly meaningful for you and your family. Decide what you can handle comfortably and let your family and friends know. Decide whether or not you want to talk about your loved one openly. Decide whether you can handle the responsibility of the family dinner or holiday party or would like someone else to take over this year. Decide whether you will celebrate as usual or try something different this year.
- Remember your loved one: Take time to remember the person who died and how he or she touched your life. Find ways to celebrate their life and your relationship. Light a candle, spend a moment in quite reflection, or say a special prayer.
- Don't be afraid to do things differently: Consider simplifying the holidays. It’s OK to do less and say no to things that don’t feel right. Another idea is to try something different. Judy Tatelbaum writes, “Often, the more we try to recreate the past, the more obvious is our loss, so changing traditions can be a freeing and satisfying way to spend the season. You can celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah or Christmas in a brand new way by going to the home of a different relative or friend, having a family reunion away from home, or eating in a restaurant. You can do anything that will make your holiday experience new rather than a memory with someone in it missing.”
- Comfort may come in doing something for others: Helping someone else can help you heal. When you are focused on the needs of another, you can become free of your own distress. You may decide to acknowledge your loss by giving a gift in memory of your loved one. You might donate the money you would have spent on your loved one’s gift to a meaningful charity. Consider adopting a needy family for the holidays or helping serve meals at a shelter or kitchen. You might also invite a guest such as a foreign student, senior citizen, or someone who would otherwise be alone to share the holidays.
- Reach out: Seek out support from other people. Your family and friends want to help, so let them know how. Find a friend who really knows how to listen. Talk to that person.
- Don’t be afraid to have fun: Enjoyment, laughter, and pleasure do not mean you are abandoning your love one. Give yourself permission to celebrate and take pleasure in the day.
- Support is available: What you’re feeling is natural, but support can help. Reach our Grief Center at 303-321-2828.
Additional Support Resources:
Resources compiled by the Denver Hospice Grief Center.