Holiday time can be difficult for someone who has lost a loved one, lost a job, is experiencing a serious illness or went through a divorce. The first Holiday season can be especially difficult. As I remember the first year after my husband died, I just wanted to cancel the Holidays. My children and I tried to totally ignore the “elephant in the room” the first year. Since then we have changed a few things and remember precious memories.
After losing my father and a sister-in-law this year, I know Christmas will be different than past years. I am also wishing I could help make things better for my brother during this Holiday season. I know it will be a difficult one for him, his children and grandchildren.
If you are trying to cope with grief during the Holidays, realize some things will need to change and it will not be easy as you will miss some favorite things or events. These tips may help:
· Remind yourself that this year will be different, and you do not have to do everything you always have done. Decide what tasks and events you will celebrate or participate in and let go of the rest. You may change your mind in another year.
· Be around people you love and who will provide some support to you. Explain to your family your plans and decide whether you will share memories and pictures or leave that go for this year.
· Although you may want to “cancel” the Holidays resist. You don’t have to do everything, and you should allow some time for solitude. However for most of us, being with family and friends is what we really enjoy during the Holidays, so it is important to have a balance of activities and solitude.
· Decide ahead what traditions you will continue and what you will change. It may be less painful if you make some decisions ahead like who will carve the turkey. Getting to the table then realizing no one knows how or what to do to carve the turkey can make it very awkward and difficult.
· Allow yourself time to grieve. You will experience a range of emotions during the season, including joy, sadness, anger, loneliness and wanting to be alone. Feeling joy does not mean you have forgotten your loved one, they would want you to enjoy the Holidays, family and friends.
· Take care of yourself. Avoid using alcohol and over-using medications to get through the Holidays. Eat healthy, be physically active and follow stress reduction techniques. Be sure to include physical activity as it also reduces the risk for depression. You may find writing in a journal helpful.
Realize future years will be better and easier. Things will not be the same as in the past, but you will make some new traditions which you will enjoy. My thoughts are with all of you grieving, and I hope you experience some joy during this Holiday season.
Pat Brinkman is the OSU Extension Educator for Fayette County.