Dealing with Grief Around the Holidays

Colored lights twinkling in the new fallen snow, the hustle of Christmas shoppers making their way through bustling malls and the invitations to holiday gatherings that show up in our mailboxes all usher in the holiday season. For those of us who are mourning the loss of a loved one, this season of hope may feel like a strange and foreign world. The refrains of “I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me…” can remind us of just how cruel and overwhelming this season can truly be.

Let’s face it… Holidays can be difficult times for us – especially during that most fragile year of firsts. In a season where music and laughter flow freely, our hearts may be troubled and our sadness, profound. While it may not feel like a happy time for you; when in mourning, knowing that you’re not alone can help provide some solace. This month’s blog is written in the hopes of providing you with some ways of navigating through this season of love, hope and peace during your time of heartache and darkness.

Here are some helpful hints and things to consider:

1) Acknowledging and Respecting Your Feelings

It’s okay to feel your loss and acknowledge your less-than-enthusiastic holiday spirit. Too often we become nostalgic about “the good all days” and how wonderful they were. Holidays are rarely that picture-perfect moment in time that commercials make them out to be. Do as much (or as little) as what feels right to you.

2) Set Boundaries

Set boundaries and decide how many events or functions you might want to attend. Be in control of your schedule and also consider how you will respond when somebody says “Happy Holidays” or “Best Wishes to You.” When grieving, it can be difficult to attend holiday parties and have to act “recovered.” If that is the case for you, just don’t go. Kindly thank them for the invitation but say you won’t be able to attend this year. You don’t owe them a further explanation, but you owe yourself what is best for you at this point in your life. At the same time, consider each invitation. It might be helpful to attend a few gatherings if you feel up to it. The choice has to be yours.

3) Make a Plan

Take the time to plan ahead for family gatherings. Perhaps you don’t feel like being the host or hostess this year and that’s okay. Don’t feel guilty about that. If you do want to have people over, have dessert and coffee instead of a full meal. Simplify your life and be comfortable. Be honest in sharing your feelings with your family and friends. Feelings are not right or wrong, they just are, and ignoring them won’t make them go away. We get relief from grief when we share with others who listen without offering judgment. Don’t be afraid to let your feelings out, we all need to “Dump the Bucket”. Here are some things that have worked for others: if you are angry, throw large marshmallows at the wall or take a hammer and pound on a piece of board. Do something that is not harmful to you, but get it out. You cannot run from your feelings.

4) Take Care of Yourself

In our grief, it’s easy to let the little things go… chores, errands, cooking, and self-care. By focusing on completing daily tasks, such as prepping the garden bed for next season or grocery shopping, you might find yourself feeling a little bit better. It’s important during the holidays to intersperse some rest and relaxation. Do something special for yourself like taking a bubble bath, meditating, praying, or lighting a favorite scented candle – is cathartic and helps promote all levels of healing: physical, emotional, and spiritual. Grieving is hard work, so make sure you get enough rest.

5) The Many Faces of Grief

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to mourning. We are all different in the ways in which we grieve and how long it will take for us to heal. Because the holidays center on family and friends, this can also be a beneficial time to fully embrace what you feel and start to heal those wounds.

Try not to compare your life and sadness with someone else’s. Sometimes it can be easy to be jealous of a family who outwardly is intact and seems to be able to enjoy the holiday. Contrary to our illusions, holiday times are often not ideal times for families. Every family has its own unique relationship structures and gathering together can be joyous, but also stressful and difficult.

Remember to allow for different grieving styles within the same family. Men grieve differently than women. Children have their own way of expressing emotions. Husbands are different than wives. Siblings don’t deal with situations in the same way. Anger, sadness, frustration, are all normal feelings.

6) Create New Memories (While Honoring the Old)

It’s likely you are not alone in your grief.  Even if others were not close to your departed loved one, they may feel a sense of sadness as they walk with you during this tough time. While it is easy to get lost in some reverie of …what once was, there are also opportunities for creating new memories and traditions. Remember, you still have time to change things in your life if you aren’t comfortable with them. Examine your holiday traditions and see if you feel comfortable in carrying out those traditions, or if it would be easier this year to do something different. You need to think about what is best for you at this time.

Wrapping it up

I would like to conclude this month’s blog with paraphrasing a quote from Paul David Tripp. In the darkness, you can see the brightest light of God’s truth. …In death, you can celebrate the end of the story in the way you never had before. …May you look through the darkness and see Christ’s light. In your deep sadness, receive the comfort only he can give.

During this holiday season, we at Brunswick Memorial Home extend our sincerest condolences and wishes for many bright, beautiful, and meaningful new memories to be made with friends and family.

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