The Holidays bring happiness, cheer, joy, and a lot of other words to describe them. There are also some words we don’t like to associate with all the festivities; sadness, hurt, longing, anxiety, anger, dread. Sometimes the good words run on parallel tracks with the grief words during the holidays. If you have faced an empty chair at the table for the Holidays you know that many times the things that have traditionally brought feelings of joy and happiness can also bring feelings just as intense on the other side of the spectrum.
So, how do we manage to get through the Holidays with this tangled ball of emotions that we call grief? Here are some suggestions.
1. Plan ahead. Sometimes the dread of a thing is worse than the real thing. Planning ahead can help lower anxiety for yourself and for those around you. One friend said that just by telling her family that she was planning what she would be able to do the first Christmas after the death of her husband got rid of “the elephant in the room” and they were able to talk about it.They were then able to make plans. Decide what you can do. Make plans accordingly.
2. You set the agenda. This is closely akin to “Plan Ahead.”It’s okay to allow others to help, and it’s certainly good to get input from friends and loved ones.But don’t let others “should” you into something you are not yet up to.
3. Accept limitations. If you had been physically injured and were in a cast, both you and everyone you meet would know that you have certain limitations. Grief can put you in a “full body cast,” and you might not be able to do some things you “normally” would do, but others might not see that “full body cast.” Scale back, change things that you have done in the past, and consider doing something you might not have done before. Now, communicate with others about what you can do.
4. Celebrate what you can. Your feelings are different as you grieve. Your preferences are different now. To some degree You are different now. You and your family can decide to keep or change whatever you need to keep or change. Feel free to celebrate the Holidays differently. You have been changed, and it’s okay to change the way you celebrate the Holidays.
5. Be informed before attending events. Who will be there, how long it’s expected to last, and what you need to prepare for...these are all relevant and valid questions you might have. Events may trigger emotions and feelings that you have a right to prepare for or postpone a while longer.
6. Ask for and accept help. Even when it’s hard to do. If it feels right to allow people to help in concrete ways (cleaning, cooking, shopping, childcare, running errands), then do so. Don’t worry about burdening others, some of us would like to share your burden, let us!
7. Find time for rest. Holidays can be hard work. Grieving is always hard work. Take care of yourself with enough rest, exercise, a balanced diet, drink plenty of liquids…etc. Take care of You.
8. Finally, find ways to remember and honor the person who died. There are many creative ways to do so, and sometime we will look at some of those.
My prayer for you for these Holidays goes something like this. “May the God of Peace, Love, Light and everything that is good and Holy envelope you with His Peace, Love, and Light. May you feel loved, cared for, and held in His arms during the coming days and weeks. Father, please put the right person in the right place to care for all those who are hurting as we celebrate the birth of Your Son. Amen.”