The holidays are supposed to be a time of great joy. Despite all of the family togetherness and holiday cheer though, this time of year can be very painful for those who have lost a loved one.
Even the most wonderful traditions – the annual family Christmas party, a friendly gift exchange, or the sparkling tree– can be a painful reminder of your loss. Watching other people enjoy time with loved ones can stand in stark contrast to the loneliness you feel without your friend or family member by your side. And this can be true whether or not you lost someone during the holiday season, or whether or not the loss was recent.
At Downing & Lahey, we hope you know you’re not alone. If you’re in need of help with grief, please reach out to us. We can connect you with counselors in East Wichita and West Wichita, or direct you to our online interactive grief support. We also want to give you some practical ideas on how to not only get you through the holidays, but perhaps even help you find your own joy.
Handle traditions with care.
You might find the traditions you’re used to participating in are simply too painful for you this year. That’s perfectly okay. Don’t let external pressure force you into something that is going to increase your pain. It’s okay to excuse yourself from family traditions. The people who love you will understand and support you.
Be patient with yourself.
Everyone’s grieving process looks different. Don’t compare your journey to others or even what you read about in grief resources. Allow yourself to feel the way you feel, even if it’s angry or sad. On the other hand, if you feel happiness or joy as you delight in the season, that is okay too!
Take care of yourself.
Even with a “normal” holiday, things can get stressful, with presents to buy, budgets to stretch, and parties to plan. With the added pressure and emotional strain of a recent loss, all of these stressors can be compounded. Here are some tips for holiday self-care:
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Don’t overindulge in sweets or alcohol.
- Find the time for a little bit of exercise every day – even if it’s a walk around the block.
One of the best ways to remind ourselves of the true reason for the season is by helping others. There are plenty of opportunities during the holidays for reaching out to those in need. Contact local charities and churches to find out how they’re serving your community, and if you feel up to it, get involved. You might be surprised how it lifts your spirits!
Above all else, remember that this time of year really isn’t about presents, food, or parties – it’s about the truest gift of all – love. Reflect on the love you gave and received to the friend or family member you lost. Nothing – not even physical separation – can take that away.