Holidays can be stressful and exhausting, even in the best of times. There are many expectations placed on us to be joyful, excited, busy, and happy to see family and friends that we often feel we fail to meet those expectations. Many people feel disappointed, even let down, after family gatherings. After the death of a loved one, holidays may bring up more sadness, add more stress and lead to more loneliness.
When we lose someone we love, it’s normal to face the holidays with dread and wonder how we’re going to endure them. Many people worry they’ll never enjoy the holidays again, never look forward to them again, feeling they just want to go away to be alone until the season is over. This may be the time when we miss our loved ones the most, when their absence is most glaring, no matter how long ago the death occurred. And it may be the time when we most need support from others.
These feelings are perfectly natural. While it is true the holidays will not be the same, you can make them different in a meaningful and helpful way. Don’t run away from your feelings, instead use them to redefine your holiday, tailoring celebrations to meet your new needs.
Who says holiday traditions have to be the same year after year? Consider doing away with traditions that were meaningless or unpopular and creating new ones in their place. Incorporating your loved one into new traditions or rituals can enhance the way you remember them and ensure they will be a part of holidays to come.
Below are some ideas for incorporating your loved one into the holidays:
- Light a candle or say a prayer for them.
- Share a story about them and ask everyone to do the same. It can even be a funny story. This is a way to pay tribute to the loss while honoring their place in your lives.
- Make your loved one’s favorite dish or recipe, and name it for them (Grandma’s rice pudding). Include it in your menu for the future.
- Repeat a tradition that your loved one may have started or liked. For example, if they always gave a certain toast, give that toast in their honor.
- Show pictures of them.
Everyone grieves in their own way. There isn’t a roadmap for grief. Allow yourself time and pay attention to your needs. Don’t take on more than feels good, more than what you want to do. If you don’t feel up to hosting, don’t volunteer for it. If you feel like staying at someone’s house for an entire evening will be too much for you, let them know that you will come for part, but not all, of the evening.
Just thinking about your loved one not being at your holiday table may intensify the grief, the sadness and may even make you angry and resentful at them for leaving you. These feelings are natural. Grief manifests itself in a myriad of emotions that can run the gamut. Try to just notice them and then focus on something else.
Nobody wants to talk or even think about grief this time of year.
The focus should be on the festivities and good times, right?
While it’s true, talking about loss and grief is always difficult; it can be even tougher this time of year. However, the reality is that death and grief do happen, even during the holidays. All one has to do is turn on the news to know there is no reprieve from bad things happening this month. Illness and accidents still happen. Diseases continue to be diagnosed and treatments carry on. Lives begin and end in December too.
If you have recently experienced a loss, (or even not that recently), the holidays can be truly daunting as you wonder how in the world you will maneuver your way through them without falling apart or spoiling everyone else’s good times. You might even have started dreading the holidays as the first leaves started to drop off early last fall. The period from September right down to the end of the year can be very difficult for some.
Add to that, the seasonal change of lessening daylight hours and more darkness, perhaps it’s no wonder this period can be the most difficult of all for the recently (or not so recently) bereaved. The holidays may also unexpectedly trigger memories of losses experienced years ago.
Sometimes the anticipation of the holidays (or any special occasion) can be worse than the actual days themselves. Not knowing how one will react to them, or expecting the worst, can cause extreme sadness, anxiety or dread.
Three years ago, my family received the devastating news that my mother’s cancer had metastasized to her liver and that her prognosis was bad. Very bad. In fact, we received this news on Christmas Eve day. Each Christmas that has followed has been very different than the ones preceding her death.
My mother’s Christmases were events she planned the entire rest of the year. They were actual productions, filled with more decorating, baking, cooking, eating, shopping, gift giving and visiting than anyone else’s I’ve ever witnessed. Learning how to celebrate the holidays without her took some doing. We are still trying to figure it out. I’m not sure we ever will, or even should.
Here are 12 tips that might be helpful:
1. The main thing to remember is just like everyone grieves differently, how you feel about the holidays will also be as individual as you are. They might not even BE difficult for you. Sometimes ordinary days are hardest, not holidays.
2. Perhaps most importantly, acknowledge that the upcoming days or weeks might be really hard. Stating that out loud, even to just yourself, validates it somehow making it more OK to accept your own feelings.
3. Decide what you want to do this year. Do you want to continue traditions or do you want to begin new ones? Or perhaps a combo?
4. Do something specific for your loved one. Some people like to light a candle, display a particular ornament in a special place each year, make a donation in their loved one’s name or volunteer someplace the loved one would have chosen or cared about.
5. Talk about your loved one by sharing memories and stories about them, even if it makes others uncomfortable. Remembering honors them and keeps them with you in a very real sense.
6. Set realistic expectations for yourself. If you don’t feel like doing cards, don’t. If you don’t feel like baking, don’t. If your house isn’t the cleanest, so what?
7. Take care of yourself by getting enough sleep and eating properly. Remember grieving is taxing physically, emotionally and spiritually. It’s just plain hard work and it really does tire you out.
8. Try to exercise every day. The benefits are pretty obvious, but worth saying anyway. Exercise relieves stress, helps deter depression and improves your self-esteem.
9. As much as possible, surround yourself with people who love and support you no matter what your state of mind. In other words, hang out with people who allow you to be real. Those people are the true holiday gifts.
10. If you need help, ask for it. If you can’t manage with daily chores, shopping or whatever it might be, it’s alright to ask someone to help you.
11. There is now an actual clinical term called “complicated grief.” Kind of a silly name in my opinion, because all grief is complicated. Simply put, it means there is no diminishing of your grief with time. You can’t stop mourning or begin to move on. If you are experiencing this, you probably need professional help. Ask for it. You can find more information on this topic at Mayo Clinic’s website.
12. Remember most people eventually enjoy the holidays again. Hang on to that hope. You will get there. Also, experiencing some nostalgic or sad moments is not necessarily a bad thing; it’s part of life after loss.
This list is in no way complete, but thinking about these suggestions may perhaps be helpful to some. I hope so.
I’m curious about what has been helpful for others, so I hope you’ll consider sharing a comment or suggestion.
As Christmas rapidly approaches at my house, excitement builds even with grown-up children. Memories abound, some painful, but most of them wonderful. My house, too, is probably overdone with decorations, many of them gifts I received from my mother through the years. The ornament in this post’s featured image ties in perfectly. It’s a bit nostalgic, picturing a child eagerly waiting for Santa; and it’s a gift from you guessed it, my mother.
Other posts about grief and the holidays you might be interested in reading:
With your loved one gone, you may have little or no desire to celebrate the holidays. Your heart hurts too much to even think about the usual festivities. It won’t be the same without them. Even after their memorial services in Chicago, IL helped you mourn, you nay wonder how you will get through this season.
You’re not alone. Others wonder the same thing every holiday season. How do they cope? Here are a few strategies to help you deal with the heartache of a holiday without your loved one.
The thought of hanging up your loved one’s stocking could be heart-wrenching. It might feel hard, but do it anyway. Placing their stocking on the mantle and their favorite ornament on the tree will act as a way to remember and honor your loved one. You might even buy a new ornament or other decoration to put up in their memory. If they had a favorite dessert, you can bake this and enjoy it with your family in honor of your loved one. These traditions will help carry on the memory of your loved one and create new, positive memories as you continue to observe them during future holiday seasons.
Volunteer Your Time
Did your loved one have a favorite cause? Take up this cause in their memory. Did they have a passion for animals? Maybe you can volunteer at the local animal shelter. If your loved one suffered from an illness, you can help fundraise for research to find a cure. Working toward something that was meaningful to your loved one can help give meaning to your loss and honor to their life.
The holidays are all about decorating, so include a decoration in memory of your loved one. Decorate a wreath with their favorite colors and a photo of them. Create a memory table to display objects and photos that remind you of your loved one at your family gathering.
Offer a Toast
It can be difficult to talk about your loved one, especially with others who were close to them. Break the ice with a toast to your loved one, then encourage everyone to take turns sharing a special memory of them.
In addition to volunteering for a cause that was important to your loved one, you can make a donation in their name. Use the money you would have spent on gifts for your loved one to make this donation. This is a great way to honor their memory and help those in need during the holidays.
If you would like assistance with creating a memorial service in Chicago, IL to remember your loved one this holiday season, contact the staff at Marik-Baken Funeral Services Ltd. Barbara Marik-Baken, our owner and director, is a fourth-generation funeral director who is dedicated to providing personalized care to meet the specific needs of each person and family to best honor the life of the loved one who has passed. Contact us today to learn more about our services.
Different people grieve in different ways since there are no two people alike. And the holiday seasons can, unfortunately, serve as triggers that bring about feelings of grief and sadness.
Whether Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving or any other occasion, the holidays can be a difficult time of year as you reminisce on happier times when you spent time with your now deceased loved one. But there are things you can do to eventually come to enjoy the holidays again.
Read on for a look at how to cope during the holiday season after losing a loved one – and remember that a funeral home in Parma, OH can recommend grief resources to help you cope.
Don’t Do Too Much
First things first — you need to understand what your limits are and don’t push beyond them. So, if you’re out at a family get together but are still grieving the recent loss of a loved one, understand when you’ve had enough of the festivities. Perhaps you might feel uncomfortable being around too many people. Maybe you want some alone time after an hour or so with your family and friends. When you realize that you’ve reached your limit, don’t hesitate to bid your adieus and leave. If you stick around too long, you’ll only make things more difficult for yourself.
Go Some Place New
After the funeral or Parma, OH cremation service, you’ll have to adjust to a new normal. If you had a set holiday season routine with your deceased loved one, you might want to change things up so that you’re not left comparing how things are with how things were. Instead, try something different. Why not spend a week at some all-inclusive resort someplace warm during the Christmas holidays? You can go some place new either by yourself or with a group of friends. What this will do is help you to take your mind off things and enjoy yourself.
Start New Traditions
Are you having a hard time when you remember past holiday traditions with your deceased loved one? You can deal with this by starting up new traditions. For instance, you can go to a homeless shelter during the Thanksgiving holiday to help serve food to the less fortunate, or you can head over to a nursing home with friends to do some caroling during the Christmas season. The sky is the limit when it comes to establishing new traditions after the death of a relative, so you can brainstorm and figure out what works for you.
At All Ohio Cremation & Burial Society, we’re focused on providing the funeral services you need for your deceased loved one. As a funeral home in Parma, OH, we can also help to direct you to resources in the community where you can get support for dealing with your grief. We understand that life will go on for you and yours after the burial or cremation of your relative. We’re located at 16150 Brookpark Road in Cleveland, Ohio, so come by if you want to talk to one of our representatives. You can also call us today at (877) 351-6860.
The air is getting colder, Halloween is over, and people are starting to flip their calendars to the ever-busy months of November and December. The approaching holiday season is enough to make anyone anxious: the plethora of social and financial obligations can be overwhelming, not to mention the emotional stress that the holidays may bring. This may be especially challenging for those who have lost a loved one. The holidays often are a reminder to people that their loved ones are gone. Therefore, this season can be saddening, or even painful for certain people. While there is no way to reverse or avoid these feelings, there are some things you can do to make the holidays more bearable.
Take care of yourself
The holiday season can be a time of obligation. It’s easy to get swept up in other people’s schedules. Not only that, but we are also prone to setting certain holiday obligations on ourselves. The holidays are a time of heightened emotional stress, so it’s important that you take time for yourself and enter the season with realistic expectations of what you can and can’t accomplish. A good way to approach this is to prioritize your tasks and make a list of what you would most like to do. Anything that doesn’t make the list doesn’t need to be done, and you can spend more time to practice self-care.
After losing a loved one, the idea of maintaining certain traditions or customs may seem too hard to handle. The idea may arouse feelings of sadness or loss that you want to avoid. However, the loss of a loved one should not prevent you from enjoying a holiday or your previous traditions– you may just need to modify them a bit. For example, if the idea of not buying a gift for your loved one this year saddens you, buy a gift that they would have liked and give it to someone who would otherwise not have a gift. If you still celebrate with other family members and opening gifts on Christmas is too hard on you, suggest exchanging gifts a few days after Christmas or on New Year’s. It’s all dependent on what is best for you and your family– don’t be afraid to change things up!
Accept the tears– both happy and sad
Of course, there is nothing you can do to completely erase the sadness that losing a loved one adds to the holidays. You may feel overwhelmed at random times, and tears may come more freely than you think. This is natural and completely okay. However, it’s important to also look past this sadness and remember the happy memories you have of your loved ones. Whether it’s a favorite gift they were given, their favorite holiday movie, or a silly story, try to remember the wonderful moments you shared with them. Instead of becoming downtrodden with grief, celebrate all the joy your loved one brought you during their life!
Focus on the real reason behind the season
Above all this, remember why we celebrate in the first place: Jesus Christ. Focusing on the spiritual element of the holidays can help us put into perspective whatever suffering or hardships we are going through and place them within the context of Christ. Spending some alone time with the Lord and praying for your departed loved one may help you feel more connected during the holiday season. If you’re comfortable, light a candle in honor of your loved one– not as a memorial, but rather as a reminder of the light and joy they brought you while they were on Earth; let that light remind you also of God’s eternal light and the promise of hope he leaves in all our hearts.
Did you think the worst was over? Maybe you suffered the loss of a loved one weeks or even months ago. The days have just begun to feel a little more normal. You finally managed to get the closet cleaned out, the clothes donated to charity. Friends have returned to their own lives and you’re Okay with that. You’re fixing your own casseroles and putting one less plate at the table without having to think first.You’re finding your way through the blur of grief.
And now here come the holidays, the ones that can’t just be ignored. The ones where all your loved ones are supposed to gather, just like last year, only there is that aching hole that gapes open again because the holidays just won’t be like last year. You’re still suffering from the loss of a loved one, how on earth are you going to get through this?
The brutal truth is, it won’t be without pain. There are, however, things you can do to help you get through this first holiday season:
- Don’t try to bury or evade your feelings, and don’t let anyone else pressure or guilt you into pretending nothing has happened. Of course you’ll feel sadness, but you may also be surprised by unexpectedly intense emotions like anger at what has happened, fear that you’ll fall apart, guilt that you didn’t manage to make every moment of your loved one’s life perfect. Feel them all, handle them as they come along and move on.
- Don’t hide from the holidays. You may be tempted to let your dread turn you into a recluse. There is simply no way to avoid all evidence of the holidays; if nothing else, your calendar will let you know they’re coming. If you face the holidays and your feelings about them, you’ll be much closer to regaining all aspects of your life.
- Take good care of yourself. Eat well, don’t drink to excess, take a break from the bustle and have a massage or an exercise class or a long hot bath. Grieving is hard work and you deserve the most nourishing lifestyle possible.
- Don’t be afraid to make changes.If you don’t feel you can manage hosting the traditional gathering, ask someone else to do so. If the socializing becomes overwhelming, simply skip some festivities; you can rejoin in the future as your grief eases.
- Recognize that you may not be the only one hurting. Your loved one was important to others and they may be having some of the same feelings that you are. Consider holding a pre-holiday gathering to discuss how you all want to celebrate. That meeting can also give you all a chance to honor the loved one, discuss memories, find out how you all are getting along, and offer support to one another. Many communities also hold a pre-holiday service for anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one in which stories are shared and strategies for the holidays discussed.
- Volunteer. Helping others during the holiday season will take your mind off your sadness and concern, remind you that others are struggling, and give you a sense of satisfaction as you make someone else’s holiday just a bit better.
- See a therapist. If you haven’t already, this is a good time to find a grief counselor skilled in helping people through the pain of loss. In a therapist’s office you can be angry, distressed, fearful, or heartbroken without feeling you need to be brave for the other person. The counselor may also have suggestions on how you can make your way through grief, during the holidays in particular.
- Process what you’re thinking. Write in a journal. Draw or paint. Meditate. Even talk to your loved one and explain how you’re feeling.
- Don’t despair. This may be the worst holiday season you experience. Next year may be better and the next year better yet. You will always remember your loved one, you may always feel a bit sad when you are reminded of the good times you had together, but you can feel joy again. Even though it may seem impossible right now, a time will come where you will laugh again and allow yourself to celebrate without guilt. You will look forward to the holidays.
BARBARA FANE, LCSW, BCD
THERAPY and COUNSELING SERVICES
Anyone who is about to experience their first holiday without a loved one is probably having a hard time understanding whether to be excited about the holiday or whether to dread it. Our loved one wont be there, and it will be the first time where we will begin to understand that they are really gone. This memory, tradition, and annual event, will forever be changed and this holiday is the start of many to come. How should we deal with it? Well, thats a good question, and it’s about to be my first time ever having to experience it too, so I’m right with you. Here are a few things I’m going to try that will hopefully make the pain more manageable.
1. Surround yourself with the people who were by your side when it happened, and who are still there. Whether this is a best friend, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a family member, remember that they were there with you from the beginning. If they are still there with you now, they truly do care. They didn’t just send a quick sympathy text when they found out about the tragedy, but they really invested by caring and loving you through this entire process.
2. Mix it up a little bit. Whether that means going somewhere new, changing the menu, changing who says the blessing, maybe that’s the best. With something new going on, it might help let go of the way that things used to be, and begin accepting the way that things will be from now on.
3. Help out. Do things that maybe you wouldn’t have done in years past. Now with only one set of hands in the kitchen instead of two, helping in the smallest way will take off a whole lot of stress from your parent. If being in the kitchen isn’t “your thing” (or you will burn the turkey if you step foot in the kitchen), maybe help clean around the house as a way of taking one extra thing off of the list of things to do in preparation. Things are different now, and you have had to grow up a lot in the past few months, I know. Again, don’t dwell on the fact that you have never had to help before, but start getting in the rhythm of the way that things will begin to look like.
4. Allow yourself to think about it. Allow yourself to cry. Allow people to help you. Even though you don’t want to sit in your sorrows all holiday, forcing yourself to not think about it won’t do you any good either. During the blessing before Thanksgiving dinner, take a moment to remember. Remember the years with them. Remember the life that they had, and how beautiful it was. That is good, that is healthy, that is normal. Don’t repress your feelings, because eventually they will catch up with you and it’s better to just let them come when they need to.
5. Remember that you are strong. Remember that you are loved. Remember that there will be bad days, but that the good days are to come too. You are so strong, and have been through more than a lot of other people at your age have been through at this point in their life. You aren’t going through this alone. Never get mad at yourself for getting upset at moments. Allow yourself to remember. Allow yourself to accept change. Allow yourself to be happy, and to enjoy this holiday as much as you possibly can.
I know that there are no magical words to numb this pain or to fill the absence of your loved one, but I hope that in this holiday season, you are able to still feel the love and joy that you once felt. It will be in a different way, and it will be hard to adjust to, but now is the time we begin.
Here’s to a lifetime of new traditions. Here’s to our loved ones who will be dearly, dearly missed during this first holiday without them and the holidays to come.
Living life after the loss of a loved one is always challenging. Just functioning during normal daily activities can be hard enough when everything reminds you of them. Introducing holidays into the mix can be even more devastating while you work through the stages of grief. It doesn’t matter whether your loved one passed suddenly or had declining health over time, it’s always difficult.
Although time will make special moments easier eventually, finding strategies to cope until then is very important. You’re not alone in the way you feel, although grief can be isolating. Here are five tips that will help you get through the holidays after losing a loved one.
See a professional.
It’s tempting to sit alone with your grief, but not allowing yourself to mourn or work through your feelings can seriously impede your healing. Why make grieving harder than it already is? Talking to a grief therapist can make you feel validated and less lost during this time of hardship.
Coping strategies that work for others might not be successful for you. You need to see a therapist that takes into consideration the top research on grief and mental health as well as your specific needs. If you’re seeking NYC therapy , the Therapy Group of NYC can offer you an individualized treatment plan that works for your life and history. Their treatment is data-driven and personalized. Setting up an appointment is easy, because they provide help and guidance along the way.
Your friends and family are sure to be happy to listen to you, but an experienced therapist can help you find a way forward. Learning to live and navigate big events, like holidays, will take some time. With a therapist by your side, you’ll always have someone to talk to and lean on for support.
Acknowledge your loss.
It’s tempting to try to bury your grief and not acknowledge the elephant in the room. This will make the holiday even more stressful for your friends and family. Acknowledging the difficulty of the holiday, instead of putting a front up, will help your loved ones talk about their own feelings.
By addressing what’s actually happening in everyone’s heads you might be able to find some time for laughter and joy while you reminisce about old memories. That’s not to say there won’t be tears, but it’s better to be unified during this time than allowing tensions to run high. Grief can present itself in different ways in different people. Try to extend grace to everyone during this time and be open about your feelings.
Honor them symbolically.
You can’t bring your lost one back, but finding a way to honor them symbolically could help you feel like a part of them is still around. You could light a candle next to their photo on the mantle, set a place for them at the dinner table, or just carve out time to tell stories. Making this a new tradition could help you transition into a different way of celebrating the holidays.
Communicate boundaries with friends and family.
Some normal parts of festivities might just be too painful this year to participate in, and that’s okay. If you know decorating the whole house will be too hard, then skip it or only do a fraction of what you usually do. Be clear with your friends and family about what you know will trigger your grief. Ask them to respect your wishes during this time.
Be patient with yourself.
Time will heal. Eventually, the holidays won’t be as much of a burden anymore. Give yourself the time to work through your grief. Being mad at yourself won’t make you feel any better during this already difficult period.