A week or so ago, I spoke to a bereavement group about staying healthy and happy through the holidays. As you might suspect, the discussion quickly moved from holistic wellness (mind, body and spirit) to a more focused discussion on getting through the mental side of grieving at the holidays.
Losing a loved one, most certainly, is one of the most painful experiences we have to endure. The holidays, however, bring on a variety of situations and complex feelings and emotions, often causing seasonal depression. As a result, what should be a joyous time, often becomes more of a burden and a reminder of our loss and sadness.
At this time, it is most important to honor your needs and treat yourself with kindness. Grieving is a very individual process. There is no wrong way, or right way, and so, be true to yourself. Here are a few holiday scenarios people commonly find themselves grappling with when they are grieving at the holidays, and some ways in how to address them:
- Painful Holiday Cards: One man expressed that he hated receiving holiday cards. He felt that the people sending them were looking for something from him: contact, a response, some sort of communication. He said, “I don’t want to talk to anyone. I want to be left alone.” If This is You: In no way shape or form do you owe anyone anything. This is your time to grieve, and to grieve how you want. You have every right to grant yourself the permission to be private and quiet during the holidays. If you don’t want to deal with holiday cards, have a family member or a neighbor collect your mail, and separate out the holiday cards. Don’t have the cards discarded, as one day you might be ready to open them, and may even want to respond. Instead, have them hold the cards in a box for you so you don’t have to see them or address them.
- Nowhere to Go, No one to be With: In many cases, if you lose a loved one, especially a spouse or a partner, you may feel alone during the holidays. This is especially true if the rest of your family lives far away or your friends and neighbors have plans that can’t include you. This can be doubly painful and can cause deep sadness, or even depression. If This is You: If you want to be surrounded with people during the holidays, look for community centers, libraries, churches, schools and other public institutions that may be holding holiday celebrations. If you feel like entertaining, open your home to others, or host a “potluck” celebration. Another consideration: go on a trip. Cruises are especially great for meeting people, having some fun, and celebrating in an upbeat, happy environment. Some great deals can be had at www.usairwayscruises.com.
- The Overbearing, Yet Caring Relative: When we suffer a loss, it is common for our relatives or friends to want to takeover and orchestrate the holidays for us. In their minds, they probably think they are helping, when in essence, they may be breaking boundaries, and causing stress and frustration. If This is You: Again, this is your time to take care of yourself and to put your needs first. If you feel a loved one is pushing you into something that makes you uncomfortable, be honest. Show your appreciation, but be true to yourself and communicate your needs. Tell them what you want, and let them know that although you appreciate their love and support, you need them to respect your wishes.
Although the holidays after a loss may be painful, try to remember that time does heal. Wishing you much love, peace and all the best in the New Year.