From a young age, most people think of the holidays as a time of year to be spent with loved ones. Holidays are milestones that are shared with family and close friends, giving a lot of meaning to certain days and, in turn, having us associate a lot of meaning with them. Holidays have a way of reminding people that time is passing – another holiday, another year, has gone by.
The holidays are a time of be with the people we love the most, which is why it can be so difficult to get through the holidays when someone you love has recently passed away. A lot of people find it especially difficult to handle grief during the holidays because they miss their loved one even more than usual. How can you be expected to celebrate togetherness when someone is missing?
It is extremely difficult to celebrate when you have lost a person who is special to you – the holiday seems to only magnify the loss and the grief. The sadness you may experience normally feels even worse and deeper during the holidays. You may find that you need extra support just to get through the festive season. While some people try to pretend that they’re not grieving, the truth is that the holidays are often harder than the rest of the year. You can and you will make it through the holidays.
Instead of avoiding the grief you’re undoubtedly feeling, lean into those feelings. The grief isn’t necessarily what you need to avoid; the pain is. Your experience of grief is actually a way to lessen the pain. There are several ways that you can incorporate your loved one into the holidays, even if they can’t be physically with you.
Grieving During Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s
These specific holidays tend to be the most challenging for people who are grieving. Remember, you will get through all of these holidays, even though they span several weeks. Do not try to avoid or cover up your grief. Use the grief to stop feeling the pain. Grief refers to the feelings you have inside; mourning, on the other hand, is how you express those feelings. Here are several ways that you can mourn and externalize your loss to cope during the holiday season:
How to Cope With Your Grief
- Create an online tribute landing page for your loved one and share it with the people in your life.
- Before a big holiday dinner, say a prayer for or about your loved one.
- Share a favorite memory or story about your loved one.
- Light a candle in memory of your loved one.
- Ask everyone to tell a lighthearted or funny story about your loved one.
- When you’re at your place of worship, remember them in your prayers.
- Talk to people about your loved one, whether in person or online.?
- Try to stay involved in the holidays, especially if you often celebrate with a lot of people and have traditions that you usually carry out.
For many people, the routine of celebrating the holidays is a comfort. When you don’t know what to do with your time, let the framework of holiday events guide you. When you’re dealing with intense grief during the holidays, it helps to have a plan and then a backup plan. For example, Plan A may be to go to Thanksgiving dinner with your family and friends. Plan B may be to opt for watching a movie that you and your loved one liked instead of going to Thanksgiving dinner. Or, you may want to leave Thanksgiving dinner early to do Plan B. For many people, just knowing they have an alternative option is enough to give them strength to get through Plan A.
Consider New Ways to Celebrate
Create a new routine or tradition. Depending on who you lost, old traditions may cause too much pain. Use your grief to find news ways to celebrate and to create new routines. Evaluate the parts of the holiday that you love and the parts that don’t make you feel good right now. You can either change the tradition permanently or tell yourself that you’ll try to get back to your old routines next year.
Celebrate When You’re Ready
You can opt to cancel the holiday altogether for yourself. This is absolutely an option that you can take if you need to. If you’re trying to enjoy the holidays but you’re still not feeling anything inside other than your grief, it may help to “cancel” the holidays this year. Next year, you’ll have another opportunity to enjoy them. Instead of celebrating for the holidays, find activities that will make you feel comforted during this time. You may feel like you’ll never enjoy the holidays again – this is natural, a lot of people who are grieving feel this way. While the holidays will never be the same as they once were, especially if you lost someone who you used to celebrate with, most people do find that they eventually start to enjoy the holiday season again.
There’s no right or wrong way to handle the holidays when you’re grieving. There’s no rulebook that dictates how you have to handle the holidays. Decide what feels best for you. If you need to try something out and then change your mind halfway through the season, that’s fine too. Your loved ones should support your decisions.
This is a day to honor your spouse or your significant other. If you’ve lost a person you were romantically involved with, you may feel like you have a hole through your heart. To express your grief in a helpful way, consider the following:
- Write a love letter to your significant other.
- Make a point to smile for them.
- Light a red candle in their memory.
- Tell someone about your loved one.
Mother’s Day and Father’s Day
Most people are trying to find the perfect gift for their mom or dad on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, but for people who have recently lost a parent or a child, this can be an intense day of mourning. Here are a few tips for grieving:
- Light a candle for your loved one.
- Say a prayer.
- Donate your money or time in their name.
- Do something with your family that you used to do with your parent or child.
Do’s and Don’ts of Celebrating the Holidays While Grieving
- Do be sensitive with yourself and treat yourself gently.
- Do allow yourself to grieve and to have sad feelings.
- Do let other people help you. Everyone needs help at times throughout their life.
- Do give children extra attention. Some people forget that children grieve, too.
- Don’t push yourself to do more than you want.
- Don’t do anything that doesn’t help you cope with your loss.
- Don’t keep everything you’re feeling bottled up.
- Don’t ask if you can help another person who’s grieving, just do it.
Be Kind To Yourself
Holidays can be incredibly difficult to get through after a loss. How you handle the holidays will be personal – people grieve in all different ways. Be gentle with yourself, seek out things that will make you feel better, and always keep your loved on in your thoughts.