The holidays are almost here and for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, they can be very difficult. The holidays are a reminder of what once was, of traditions repeated over years — even decades — that represented who they were — as partners, spouses, adults, children, and grandchildren.
For anyone who has lost a loved one, their journey is filled with many “firsts.” In the first year, anniversary dates, birthdays, and holidays can be especially difficult. There will be unexpected experiences of feeling “flooded” with emotion or the stark reality that their loved one is gone. Over time, with support from family, friends, grief groups, and individual counseling, these symptoms will dissipate. In time, acute grief will transition into an emerging acceptance, and the development of a “new normal.” How long this takes is different for everyone.
If you are coping with the loss of a loved one, here are a few tips to help you through the holidays:
- Be patient with yourself, as it may be difficult to make decisions and plans so ask for help
- Consider where you want to be at holiday time — at home or staying with close family or friends
- Let those close to you know how you are feeling
- If you want to stay in your home and have guests visit, ask others to help with cooking and planning
- Share stories and pictures about your loved one
- Donate to a charity that would be meaningful
- Grief support groups can be found through local synagogues, churches, and agencies. For some, being around others who have gone through the loss of a loved one but may be further along on their journey can offer hope and reassurance.
- It may be too painful to follow long-standing holiday traditions. Instead consider doing something different — go to a restaurant with friends or relatives, or travel out of town for the first holiday year, to avoid the triggers the season brings with it.
- Seek out a licensed social worker or licensed professional counselor who has expertise in grief work.
Remember there are no rules — do what you need to do to get through the holidays with the least amount of added stress and expectations.