Losing a loved one is difficult no matter when or why it happened. And the holidays can be especially painful as we futilely try to fill the void left behind by the dearly departed. Your first Christmas, Thanksgiving, or birthday after losing a parent or other close relative may be almost unbearable. Here are a few tips to get you through the rough patch:
Don’t Push Everyone Away.
When you’re grieving, your gut instinct may be to separate yourself from everyone else. Even something as simple as hearing your loved one’s name may set you over the edge. But, the burden of grief is lifted when shared with friends and family. Daniela Tempesta explains in a 2014 HuffPost blog that pushing people away is a protective measure we use to keep from experiencing further loss. But it rarely works that way and you may find yourself grieving your support network if you push it out of reach.
But Push When You Need Time to Grieve.
While it’s unhealthy to cut yourself off completely, do make it known that you need time to process the events. Don’t feel guilty if you need a few days to grieve in private, no matter how long after the death that may be. Grief comes in waves and some days you can feel like you’re drowning in everyone’s well-intentioned inquiries.
Do Something to Honor Their Memory.
No amount of good karma is going to bring your loved one back. But, you can keep their memory alive by supporting causes near and dear to their heart. You might, for instance, sponsor a child over Christmas and sign the card from your loved one. Funding a scholarship to send a child to a speceial needs camp or volunteering at your local animal shelter are also ways you can help their legacy live on while working through your own emotions. Behavioral Wellness & Recovery reports that participating in community giving events can help you focus on the good things in your life instead of what’s missing.
Change Your Traditions if Your Feelings Dampen Your Family’s Experience of the Holidays.
Many people have fond memories of a childhood full of family being together for one of the few times during the year. Unfortunately, when the family matriarch or patriarch passes away, these traditions can feel empty. If you find yourself in position where you are simply going through the motions of the holidays, you’re doing no one any favors by suffering. Your extended family may protest, but there is nothing wrong with establishing new traditions for your children and grandchildren. Instead of joining your aunts, uncles, siblings, and cousins for Thanksgiving dinner, maybe take your spouse and children on a long weekend to the mountains or out to dinner at a local hotspot. Find what works for you and start your own traditions so that your children will have their own happy memories.
Set a Place for Your Loved One at the Table.
Memorial tables are often used at weddings to represent the love shared between the dead and the wedding party. It’s a way to feel connected even after death. This holiday, consider setting a place for your loved one. If they had a specific spot at the table, you might put their favorite coffee mug out along with a slice of their favorite pie. This symbolic gesture may help you remember that while they are gone, they live on in the hearts and minds of those that love them.
Give Yourself Permission to Move On.
Perhaps most importantly, allow yourself the opportunity to feel something other than grief. Give yourself permission to smile and laugh and enjoy the new memories that emyou’ll make. Just because you continue to experience joy does not mean that you loved your deceased friend or relative any less.
Remember, grief comes in many different forms and not always after death. It’s not uncommon for men and women to grieve after divorce and holidays are likewise difficult. But remember, give yourself permission to let go and change things up if your old traditions don’t live up to your memories.
Written by Lucille Rosetti