Holidays seem like they should be a joyful time, but when you’ve experienced a loss, the grief can make you painfully aware of the sharp contrast between how you feel and what the holidays ‘should’ bring. These tips may help you get through a difficult time.
- Only do what is doable. Holiday time tends to be busier than usual and it’s easy to overload your calendar. This can leave you feeling tired and burned out. It’s up to you to decide which activities you will participate in. It’s okay to say no.
- Accept your feelings. The way we experience and express grief is different for everyone. There is no timeline or ‘normal’ path through grief. Holidays can intensify grief because we tend to make a lot of memories with our loved ones at celebrations. Some people feel guilty when they have period of joy. Whatever your feelings, accept them as they come with each up and down.
- Ask for help. Reach out to family or close friends who can lighten your load. Maybe they could run an errand for you, or maybe you just need someone to listen to you.
- Plan ahead. A little planning can save you time, money and hassle. Combine some errands. Save some time for yourself in all the planning. Create some comforting rituals that help you take care of yourself.
- Scale back. Simplify your giving. Cut your Christmas card list in half. Don’t bake quite as much. Put up fewer decorations. There are many ways to simplify at holiday time.
- Give. Consider giving to a charity in memory of your loved one. Volunteer to serve others for a cause that honors your loved one. Making a positive difference in someone else’s life can be brighten our spirits as well.
- Acknowledge those who have passed on. It can help with healing to honor the memory of loved ones in a special way during the holidays. Perhaps you can light a candle in their honor or share stories about them.
- Do something different. Sometimes traditions and rituals help us remember special times with loved ones. Other times it may be more painful to experience the tradition without a loved one. This might be just the year to start a new tradition. You could go to a different location to celebrate, maybe even a good time to get away for a bit. Do what seems right for you this year.
Goyer, A. “Dealing with Grief During the Holiday Season: 10 things to help get you through this difficult time. AARP. Dec. 2012.
Alvord, M., Fu, M. & Palmiter, D. “Making the most of the holiday season.” American Psychological Association. Nov. 2016.
Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County
Reviewed by: Jami Dellifield, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Hardin County