Going through the “Firsts” of grief can be one of the most difficult parts of grief. If you’re wondering how to survive the holidays without your loved one, here are some strategies you may find helpful.
1. Remember That Time Doesn’t Heal All Wounds
Grief doesn’t just go away after a short time. When others say “you should be over it by now” or “c’mon, there’s still so much to enjoy!” remember that grief doesn’t fit into a nice tidy box that can be tucked on a shelf. It is a healing process that cannot be avoided. Allow yourself to feel the sadness, anger, guilt, and yes, even laughter without judging yourself or thinking you should be happy or shouldn’t be laughing. Experiencing this roller coaster of feelings can actually help you feel better in the long run.
2. Plan Ahead
Know that special moments of past holidays with your loved one are going to come to mind. Did they have a specific role such as carving the turkey or making a particular dish that only they could do? Was there a particular part of the day that he or she loved best? Once you become aware of these, they won’t have quite the same power to knock you off kilter. Be with the people and places you feel most supported. A good friend who doesn’t mind your tears can help you get through the day. Trust that next time it will be a little easier.
3. It’s OK to Say No
You don’t have to force yourself to be at every holiday event. If being part of the office party, or going to the community tree lighting is likely to bring too many painful memories this year, it’s ok to say no. Don’t let others pressure you to participate. Remember, you don’t have to try to please everyone else. You do have to take care of you, and only you know what you need.
4. Be Kind to Yourself
Maybe you used to say no to all the chocolates and delicious cakes and cookies that about during the holidays. In past years you would have been running helter skelter to get everything done, and make everything the best it could be. You made sure to visit all of the people who invited you to stop by. This year give yourself permission to slow down, to decline invitations, even to eat those goodies that give you some measure of comfort.
5. Focus on What You Can Control
There is much that’s out of our control during the holidays. The Christmas music that blares in just about every place you go. The cards wishing “Merry” and “Happy” and “Be of Good Cheer” that are bound to come your way. Friends and co-workers talking excitedly about their holiday plans. While you can’t control these, there are some things you can control. Only decorate or shop as much as you want. Don’t send out holiday cards this year if it feels too much. Drive your own car to events so that you can leave when you want to and not feel stuck. It’s ok to step back from the many demands of the season.
6. Honor Your Loved One
Creating a special way to remember your loved one can serve as a tangible reminder that although he or she has died, your love for each other never will. You might choose to light a candle and sit in quiet reflection; or watch a movie you both loved. Maybe find a special decoration that he or should would love can be a yearly reminder of the precious times you shared.
7. Create New Traditions
Creating something new doesn’t mean you’re leaving your loved one behind or forgetting the traditions you both shared. You can still do those too; or set aside a time to remember doing them together. Don’t be afraid to do something new. Creating a new tradition that you know would have made them laugh, or been meaningful to them can be a good way to honor them in years to come.
8. Ask for Help
Don’t be afraid to reach out to a trusted friend or family member and let them know you’re struggling. Just letting someone know that you’re having a hard time can be enough. But you may also want to reach out for something more. Finding a support group, or a Blue Christmas Service to attend, or contacting a grief coach can help you deal with your grief in a healthy way.