You hardly feel like getting out of bed in the morning, meanwhile the rest of the world is kicking off the holiday season. The contrast between the joy of others and your sorrow will sting- but you can’t just “skip it” this year. The impact of your loss could potentially isolate you from the best support you have, your friends and family. With some intentional planning, you can meaningfully participate in the heart of the holidays: tradition, connection, and love. Consider these suggestions collected over years of listening:
- Transitional Traditions. Planning to re-create the typical celebration EXACTLY LIKE or COMPLETELY UNLIKE other years rarely works well. If everything is scripted like the past it highlights your loss. Traveling to escape the reminders could result in feeling miserable many miles from home because nothing is familiar. Collaborate with your family about which traditions will be soothing and which need to be different, at least this year.
- Intentional Pacing. The exhaustion of grief is a real limitation so give yourself permission to be selective about which social gatherings will be worth the effort. People will inevitably ask the dreaded “how are you doing?” when you first arrive, so craft a simple statement like “some days are better than others, thank you for asking.” Then change the subject. Resist over sharing, intimate conversations about your loss in a party setting will leave you too vulnerable. Watch your alcohol intake. If you are sad when you drink, you will be sadder when you are drunk. Sorry to be blunt but it’s true, sometimes we forget.
- Memorialize. Acknowledging the life of your loved one by reminiscing will be comforting when surrounded by close friends and family. If breaking the ice seems overwhelming to you ask a few family members if they would be willing to start sharing memories at a specified time, like after dessert. If you are a person who wants to “decorate” and visit the cemetery make sure to plan your trip so you can simplify the rest of the day. Cemetery visits are more satisfying when they are not rushed into an over-scheduled day.
Completing the first year of firsts is an important step in the long road ahead of life after loss.When all the turkey is eaten, the dishes are washed, and the gifts are unwrapped, the holidays are really all about love. This year especially you don’t want to miss out on the love.
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