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This year has been a crazy one, no doubt about that. With the holidays just around the corner, many of us are enjoying lights and joy this time of year brings. It’s our treat to ourselves, our way to say goodbye to 2021 and welcome in 2022. I’m one of those people. But even while I embrace the holiday season, I try to remember that for some people, this is not the most wonderful time of the year.
The holidays can be rough on people who have lost loved ones. Especially Christmas. With how many have been affected by COVID-19, cancer, heart disease, and other ailments this year, it is very likely that you or someone you know has lost a loved one this year. This could be someone’s first Christmas without their favorite aunt or uncle, grandparent, or friend at their side. Or, this could be their tenth or eleventh Christmas without them. Loss never gets easier and should never be brushed aside.
People suffering from loss this holiday have no obligation to be merry and bright. They do not have to be immersed in the Christmas spirit. If you know someone who is struggling, or have a hard time at the holidays yourself, there are some tips that may help. First and foremost is to remember that grief is complicated and everyone grieves differently. Accept that one day, your friend or loved one will be fine and then the next, unavailable. There is not right or wrong way to show grief.
The Psychology Group, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, shares some tips to help people cope with their grief during the holidays. First on their list is to set and respect boundaries. This goes both people grieving and those trying to help.
There is always pressure to join in holiday parties. You may think getting out may help someone dealing with grief cope, but it might also be too much. Let each person set their own boundaries. It is acceptable to decline invitations to a party if it is too much, or only show up for a brief time. IF all you can give is thirty minutes and a hello, then that is fine. Do not be afraid to invite someone who is grieving out to a holiday party, but don’t be upset if they turn the invitation down. That is their right, and they might not be ready to go out yet.
That thought leads into the next tip: Be aware of emotions during the holidays. Some people can feel guilty for enjoying themselves after the passing of a loved one. Don’t be guilty. It is possible to both grieve someone and enjoy the holidays. More likely than not, your loved one would want you to enjoy yourself.
With the passing of elderly family members, there are often special holiday roles that need filled. Plan ahead to have that role filled for your holiday celebrations – and that leads into the next tip: Don’t stop holiday traditions. It can help with grief to continue family traditions to honor and celebrate the ones who started them. It helps keep the memory alive and make the holidays feel a little closer to normal.
The Psychology Group also suggests creating new traditions. New memories don’t erase the old ones. They just help you embrace the future.
Most loved ones know that their family want them to enjoy the holidays. For people grieving, it can help to have coping mechanisms ready. Healthy ones, like deep breathing exercises, yoga, listening to music, and trading a walk can all help someone deal with turbulent emotions caused by grief. I personally enjoy writing when I am overwhelmed, so journaling has proven to be an effective coping mechanism for me.
Volunteering your time or donating to a charity this time of year can help alleviate your sadness by bringing joy to someone else. It can also make you feel good, too.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your friends and family will be with you. And there are always professionals out there to offer advise and guidance if needed. It is normal to need help during this time. Don’t be afraid to ask. A therapist can help guide you towards a brighter future.
Armed with these tips, hopefully the holidays aren’t quite so daunting now for those who have lost someone this year. I hope you all have a blessed Christmas and the very best of new years.