The holidays can be a special, yet difficult time for those who have lost a loved one. These treasured days are times of joy for most people. But when you have had a death in the family, they can be a time when the lights, laughter and joy of the season are in great contrast to your own sad feelings. What can you do to deal with these special times of the year?
1. Plan Ahead
If you think these will be difficult days, plan ahead in detail for
them. Create a plan - even a back up plan.
2. Have Reasonable Expectations
Rather than assuming these times will be terrible, remember
that few things in life are all bad or all good. What has been a
joyful time in the past may still retain positive aspects. Don't
jump to the conclusion that it will be terrible. You can't really
foresee the future.
Instead, you may want to reduce the demands on you by
giving yourself permission to not do as much as you did in the
past in terms of entertaining, party-going, gift buying, card
sending and decorating. People will understand.
3. Watch Your Thinking
Avoid thinking an activity or day has to be all good or else it is
a failure. Don't discount the positive experiences and feelings
you have. Your loved one would want the best for you. Don't
magnify the negative and minimize the positive in your life. Be
realistic in your thinking. Acknowledge the positive. Avoid
creating lots of "shoulds" and "oughts" and then "beating
yourself up" when you are overly critical of yourself thinking
you didn't measure up. We tend to be harder on ourselves
than anyone else.
4. Tell Others Your Preferences
Other will want to know how they should treat you. Tell them
what you prefer. It helps them, and it helps you. Let them know
if you want them to speak of the deceased. Let them know if
you want the family to come to your house or, if this year, you
want the gathering to be at someone else's house.
5. Give Yourself Permission
Allow yourself to try to do what you want but give yourself
permission to step back if it's too difficult for you.
For example, you may tell a friend you will come to their party
but you may wish to leave early or excuse yourself if it
becomes overwhelming. They will understand and not be
offended if you leave early. This allows you to try, but to back
away based on your needs. It's usually better than staying
6. Adjust Rituals
Some people will want to repeat all the usual activities and
rituals. Give yourself permission to
change at the last moment if it is too difficult.
Others may choose to go out of town to visit or do something
entirely different. This may be shared with family
members in advance so they know the plans.
You may want to make a special gift
to charity in remembrance of your loved one, plant a tree, or
create a special act in your own home. The important thing is
to do what makes sense and feels appropriate for you.
7. Greeting Cards
Sometimes the arrival of greeting cards addressed to the
deceased can catch us off guard. Telephone calls can also
surprise us. It is okay to cry. You will be able to cope.
8. Time Together/ Time Apart
Special occasions can be difficult or they may be a source of
great comfort and renewed joy. You may want to plan your
holiday schedule so you have time with other people and time
by yourself. We need both. We must find the balance that
If there are children in the family you may choose to decorate
and celebrate for their sake. Involve them in deciding what
you as a family will do this year. Give them permission to be
happy as well as to grieve. Encourage them to join you in
creating a memorial for your loved one.
10. Support is Available Through
Our bereavement counselors are available to help you cope with the holidays in the way that works best for you.
Consider attending a support group near you. You may also call 239-382-4673 and ask to speak with a counselor.