These are challenging times that we live in and for those who are in the midst of grief, the arrival of the holidays can make life a lot more challenging.
Thanksgiving is next week and decorations and other holiday reminders are already popping up everywhere. You may already be dreading this time of year because you know the holidays can be an emotional minefield. Reminders of your loved one can sometimes present themselves when you least expect it.
It can be a song, a smell, the house where you are celebrating or even a story that someone may tell. It it hard to predict where the emotional triggers might be during a holiday celebration but when they happen your loved one is suddenly brought back to you in an instant and in that moment all of your plans to keep it together may quickly dissolve.
For people who are newly widowed or who have lost a child, a parent, a friend or a relative, the idea of being without that person during the holidays is incredibly painful. Please accept my sympathies. I am truly sorry for your loss.
Whether this is your first Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa spent without the presence of loved one or it is your tenth, feelings of loneliness or an aching may visit you through the day, a yearning for that person who is precious to you but gone, even though you may be surrounded by beloved family and friends.
I can only go by my experience and what others tell me but it is difficult to predict how you feel during these celebrations so you should do what makes you feel comfortable. Listen to your inner voice. Those around you may feel awkward and unsure of what to say to you. They are afraid to upset you, not realizing that you are already feeling numb and raw and probably tired.
Then again, there may be people at these gatherings who acknowledge what has happened to you and they sit and listen to what is in your heart. Those people are gifts.
In the hopes of helping others who are trying to figure out how they can get through the holidays while dealing with the loss of a loved one, here are some timely tips from the Hospice Foundation of America that may make this holiday season a bit easier for you:
— Do what is comfortable;
— Plan for the approaching holidays. Be aware that this might be a difficult time for you. The additional stress may affect you emotionally, cognitively, and physically; this is a normal reaction. It is important to prepare for these things.
— Take care not to drink alcohol (a central nervous system depressant) in excess, overeat (which bring fatigue), or overwork.
— Avoid spending more than you like simply because it is expected. Buying smaller gifts or giving the gift of time are important options to consider. Feel good about not going into debt.
— Recognize that holidays won’t be the same. If you try to keep everything as it was, you’ll be disappointed. Doing things a bit differently can acknowledge the change while preserving continuity with the past.
— Be careful not to isolate yourself. It’s alright to take time for yourself but don’t cut yourself off from the support of family and friends.
— The holidays may affect other family members. Talk over your plans. Respect their choices and needs, and compromise if necessary.
— Avoid additional stress. Decide what you really want to do, and what can be avoided.
— Find the way that is right for you.
You are loved and you are not alone. Ever!