Can we go ahead and name the elephant in the room about the holiday season? Holidays are extremely hard after the loss of a loved one. And they’re not just hard the year of the loss, they’re hard every single year after, too.
For a season so focused on gathering with family and dear friends, the holidays can become bittersweet for so many of us as we miss the taste of our grandmother’s apple pie, as we notice the empty chair at the dinner table, as we feel the lingering sadness, anger, and pain.
My family recently lost our beloved grandmother. We all feel the heaviness of grief in our own ways. While we will still gather together in joy and hope, we know too well the emptiness this holiday season will bring.
You, too? Here are a few tips to help you along the journey as you navigate your grief this holiday season.
1. No matter how many times you’ve heard that “you should be over it already” from people who mean well, it’s okay if you’re still grieving no matter how long ago you lost your loved one. You shouldn’t have to just cover up other emotions to channel only joy because it’s the holidays. It’s normal and expected for grief to be a long process (no, you should be over it already). It’s okay to not be okay.
2.Take time to notice the things that trigger a heightened emotional response to your grief. Don’t force yourself into situations that you know will be especially triggering for you. This will look different for everyone, but when you recognize the triggers that bring grief to the forefront, you will be able to avoid potentially upsetting.
3. Make an effort to still attend your family functions (if it’s a safe space for you), but have a few options in place for ways to take a break during your time together if you need it. It could be as simple as stepping out of the house to take a brief walk outside, protecting a little time to take a nap, or calling a friend.
4. Think of something that you can do alone or as a family to remember your loved one. What did your loved one enjoy about the holidays? Take small actions like playing a beloved song, cooking a commemorative holiday meal, drinking a favorite beverage, or watching a favorite movie. Don’t let go of traditions that were special to this person just because they’re gone, but continue them in their memory.
5. Get support. The business of the holiday season can seem like the perfect excuse to ignore actions that you’d normally take to care for yourself. Even with a change in schedule and rhythm, don’t skip out on regular therapy appointments or seek out new support opportunities to help you cope in healthy ways. Stick to your routines as closely as possible before you travel and don’t neglect your own needs during this season.
Need local support? Join the Holiday Grief Support Group at The Brookhaven Center on Nov. 29, Dec. 6, Dec. 13, and Dec. 20 from 6-7pm by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.