What a monumental accomplishment for those of us on our journey of grief. Whether this past Christmas was the first or the twelfth holiday without our loved one, getting through the holidays is difficult. The memories of family traditions. That year you received ‘the BEST Christmas gift ever’…or just that feeling of being all alone while everyone else is feeling so festive. It’s tough to navigate the holidays. Depending on what stage in the process we find ourselves, we are often ill-prepared for that wave of grief that might catch us off guard. A scent, a moment of wonder or that favorite Christmas carol can send us into a tailspin quicker than a patch of black ice!
When I counsel folks on the journey of grief during the holidays, I like to prepare them ahead of time. Getting ready for Thanksgiving can be a chore when we feel as though we have little to be thankful for. It helps to acknowledge the blessings that are still available to us. Our surviving family members or close friends can help to ease that feeling of utter loneliness. It can also be helpful to devote time helping neighbors, friends of the elderly in our community. Those that are also struggling or may be less fortunate than we are. A sense of humanity toward others can assuage a sense of hopelessness. We can benefit from the experience of gratitude from those around us that may be suffering as well.
Acknowledging long-standing traditions can be painful. Try a slight alternative of those things that were part of your annual holiday celebration. I have shared stories with others on their journey that have successfully traveled the path through the holidays. Include memorial moments during their holiday observances. Setting a place at the Thanksgiving table. Talking about fond or funny moments during past celebrations. Give a gift from your loved one that might have special meaning to someone. Keep their presence involved during the exchange of presents with others.
Above all else, share your feelings with those around you. It helps to express your feelings. It is also a relief to those around you by giving them a sense of awareness and direction. You offer them a sense of whatever your limitations might be. If you wish to include the memory of your loved one in conversation, speak their name. Have your moments of fond memory and inclusion. It gives those around you an opportunity to share how they are feeling as well. I have found that this conversation is best enjoyed with those folks that you have a strong sense of trust.
Prepare ahead of time for what you know will be achievable goals. It can give you the strength and confidence to continue a path toward healing. Knowing that your journey can only be traveled by you alone can be a frightening prospect. But planning ahead by including family, friends and familiar traditions around us can give you a sense of love and support, which is the greatest gift we can give ourselves during the holidays!