For many people, the holiday season is a special time marked by celebrations and gatherings with family and friends. However, those who have experienced a loss often find it to be the most difficult part of the year. Some individuals assume that you are supposed to get on with life by celebrating the holidays the way you have always celebrated them. The reality is that for those who are grieving, it is not the same, meaning they do not have the energy or desire to celebrate.
One person told me several years ago, "Christmas was my loved one's favorite holiday. Therefore, it is very hard for me to even begin to think about celebrating Christmas." I encouraged that person to celebrate in honor of their loved one. To manage their low energy level, I encouraged them to do only what would be most meaningful to them.
It is important to come to terms with the reality that you may not feel like doing the normal festive activities: decorating the house, putting up the Christmas tree, traditional holiday baking, shopping for gifts, or any other activities that come with the season. However, it is also important to recognize and participate in activities that will bring you peace and comfort. For instance, pick two activities that you will enjoy and commit yourself to those activities and no more.
Your loved one will always be an integral part of your life. No one and nothing, including death, can remove those memories from you. Therefore, move forward into the holidays with the understanding that they are still in your heart as you celebrate.
For instance, I often encourage people planning family gatherings to set a place at the table for the person they lost that year. Another idea is to prepare a Christmas stocking with your departed loved one's name on it, just like you would do for any other family member. The day before opening presents, allow each member of the family to write on a small slip of paper a couple of words that would jog their minds about a favorite memory of your loved one. When Christmas morning arrives, open your loved one's stocking and allow each member of the family to share those memories. There will be tears and laughter during that time—and tears and laughter are both healing. In tears and laughter, you will find yourself honoring their memory and absorbing the healing that is most needed during this time.
While you may have always celebrated the holidays with your own family traditions, you may also "reinvent the wheel" to create new traditions. It is important to invite other family members into the conversation about how you, as a family unit, will celebrate the holidays this year. As a family, you may choose to do the holidays the same way or you may choose to do them differently. It depends on what is best for the family.
Healing is always possible and even more so during this season, as there are times for lightheartedness and for things that bring us back to our sentimental roots of love and loss. Never underestimate the power of healing that can take place during the holiday season, as we dare to remember those we have loved and lost.
—Saundra Yates, Bereavement Coordinator/Chaplain (Mount Airy Office)
Mountain Valley Hospice & Palliative Care offers free grief support to the community at large. For more information, contact us today at 336-789-2922 (toll-free 1-888-789-2922).
Tags: Grief Support