Dr. Laura Pennavaria
Grieving During the Holidays
The Holidays can be joyful, but can also be stressful. The pain of grief is amplified this time of year by its juxtaposition to the festive displays, music, and celebrations of the Christmas season. This year, because we have many deaths from a source we didn't have a year ago (covid), many more families are experiencing the holidays this year while mourning the loss of a loved one.
Grief changes our experience of holidays, as we remember celebrating past holidays with our lost loved one, and long for their presence. If you are experiencing grief this holiday season, here are some tips to help you through:
Accept and acknowledge to yourself that you will have difficult moments this holiday season and that it is always ok to feel what you are feeling.
Decide which traditions you want to honor this year, and which you want to skip, and communicate that to your family and friends so there are no surprises.
Be very honest with yourself about what you are capable of doing this year, and be very honest with others as well, asking them to respect your wishes.
Note for yourself people who will be helpful and supportive and those who may cause more stress. Spend time with the supportive people, and not with the others. This is not a time to sacrifice your peace of mind. Make a polite excuse and banish the guilt.
Consider creating a new tradition honoring your loved one.
Include one of your loved one's favorite treats or holiday dishes.
Take a break if feelings are overwhelming you during any holiday event.
Remember it's ok to be happy and feel joy after a death. Don't feel guilty for happy moments. Kids need to be reminded of this, too.
Cultivate gratitude. Even when it seems impossible to be grateful, recognizing blessings has a healing effect.
Be gentle with yourself. Lose the expectations, and just enjoy the moment.