Coping with grief through the holidays
Submitted by Ann LaRocque
Holiday time can be especially difficult for those who are grieving. Feelings of numbness, dread, sadness, anger, and anxiety are all quite normal during grief and mourning. Our emotional state may seem overwhelming because grief emotions are typically more intense, unpredictable, erratic, and more complicated than at other times.
Because the holidays often focus on people physically being together, grief may become more intense, because the reality that a person is no longer physically here hits home.
Here are some guidelines that might help you over the holidays:
Identify your feelings. Honestly ask yourself, “What am I feeling as the holidays approach?” Know beforehand how you are going into the holidays. Often, the anticipation is more difficult than the actual holidays themselves.
Have a plan. Sit down with other people who will be involved in your holidays and honestly discuss what you can realistically do this year. Consider all the options, from doing things the way they have always been done, to doing nothing, and possibilities in-between.
Set boundaries. You may need to limit the amount of time you spend with family and friends during the holidays. If others pressure you into doing more, respectfully say no this year.
Observe the day in a way that is meaningful for you. Nurture yourself at this time. If you need to focus on your loss, and remember your loved one in a special way, then do it. Create a special ritual in memory of your loved one.
Create a day of rest and relaxation. This year of grieving is different. If you do not have the energy for holiday festivities take the time to rest and relax.
Connect to the spiritual. Honor your loved one’s spirit. Look at pictures, go to church, light a candle or connect with the natural world. Expand your understanding of the spiritual world.
Be flexible. Give yourself permission to change your mind. If you find yourself dreading a holiday visit, but find it isn’t so bad, consider staying longer.
Do something completely different. This year is a different year. Allow yourself to do something for this year that is completely out of the ordinary.
Buy a gift for yourself. Buying something for yourself is focusing on your needs and nurturing yourself.
Connect with someone else. Reach out to someone who has experienced a loss and may be in the same pain.
Reflect on the gifts your loved one left the world. What did your loved one teach you and how can you continue the goodness he/she gave to you and others?
Remember each holiday is only 24 hours. Although holidays seem long, in actuality, a holiday is only 24 hours. Have a plan, know that you will do the best you can, and tomorrow will be another day.
This article was submitted by Ann LaRocque, LCMHC, Hospice Bereavement coordinator, Rutland Area VNA & Hospice. For more information about this topic call 770-1516.