It’s that time of year. The holiday season is upon us. It seems to come sooner each passing year. For some the season is full of joy, anticipation and excitement. Family gatherings, cooking, baking, shopping for gifts, decorating the home brings a smile to many children and adults alike. Grief, however, does not take a holiday. All the colorful distractions can, for some, make the season more challenging and grief more apparent.
We all have family traditions that define how we celebrate this time of year. After the death of a loved one, the holiday season may not feel or look the same. Traditions and rituals may bring a tear or sadness rather than joy and peace. No matter how long ago the loss, the holiday season may bring all those memories into sharper focus. These reactions to loss while normal, may not feel so, and can create a sense of unease within families. We offer a few tips and ideas to help through this time of the season.
Begin with the understanding that the holidays will be different this year.
Adjusting to life without your loved one can drain energy and increase emotional reactions. Be prepared for a chain reaction of memories and emotions that may be triggered by a favorite song or cherished ornament. Find a person, family or friend who can listen as you reminisce through your tears.
Be kind to yourself
Grief brings fatigue and limits your physical and emotional resources.
Let your family know what brings you comfort and peace.
Attending gatherings, parties and get-togethers may bring more discomfort. After the loss of a loved one, it is usual for people to experience a sense of yearning or searching for the person who has died. This creates some restlessness, not wanting be alone yet, but not wanting to join a group.
Do what makes you comfortable, not what friends or others think you should do
Negotiate with family and friends about what gatherings you will attend and for how long. We are all unique and our grief needs are unique. You may find it helpful to take your own car so you can leave when you are ready, or stay if you choose.
Talk to your family and discuss how you will observe the holiday this year.
Traditions can be very comforting. You may wish to observe some family traditions and forgo others for now. This year, you and your family may decide to find new traditions to celebrate the holidays.
Allow your friends and family to help when they offer.
Supporting you as you grieve and mourn allows family to be a part of the grief process.
Ask for help when you need it.
Family and friends may not even know you need help. Let them know what your needs are during the holidays
Set realistic goals for yourself
Reserve the right to change your mind with any plans you set.
Know that we do not get over grief, we go through grief. Remember your loved one by sharing stories with your family and remembering the gift they brought to you that will be with you always.
Valerie has worked in the medical social work field since her internship at University hospital in San Antonio Texas. Over the course of 17 years she worked in adult medical surgical areas to include the emergency department, Rehabilitation, In- patient psychiatry and outpatient psychiatry. With a move to Dallas in 1994, she began working in hospice first as a field Social worker and then Bereavement coordinator. Currently she provides the clinical supervision for the Social work staff and oversees the Bereavement Integrated therapies department for Faith Presbyterian Hospice.