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The holidays are a time to celebrate and be with your family. But when you’ve lost someone you love, the sight of Christmas decorations at the grocery store can bring you to tears. A song on the radio can suddenly make your grief feel like a fresh, gaping wound again, even if it’s been years since they’ve passed. Maybe this time won’t be as hard as you anticipated. Everybody’s grief is different. The holidays will never be the same without the person you love though, and that pain will never go away completely.
Here are some suggestions for making the holidays a little easier.
1. Plan Ahead
Let your friends and family know in advance that this time will be difficult for you, and communicate what traditions and events you’ll realistically want to participate in. Plan for the most important and skip the rest.
2. Set Realistic Expectations
You don’t have to do everything. If you don’t want to send out cards this year, it’s ok. If the thought of holiday shopping feels overwhelming, don’t send out as many gifts, donate to a charity in honor of your loved one, ask for help shopping, or skip them altogether. Being with the people you love is much more meaningful than material things.
3. Include Their Memory
Some find that incorporating their loved one’s memory in their holiday traditions helps bring some light back to this season. Visit their gravesite and leave a wreath, poinsettia, or other meaningful gift. Include a place for them at the dinner table. Cooking their favorite recipes, hanging up a stocking with their name on it, or lighting a candle at your place of worship in their memory can all be comforting and create new traditions.
4. Create Boundaries
You don’t have to live up to others’ expectations. Say no when you just don’t have the energy to attend an event. Drive yourself or take a rideshare to parties so you don’t find yourself stuck there and wishing you could leave. And don’t feel obligated to have people over if you’re just not in the mood.
5. Say Yes to Help
Grief can make everyday tasks difficult. Let the people who want to help you, help. And ask for it when you need it, be it chores, shopping, baking, or anything else that feels too daunting.
6. Love Yourself
This is often easier said than done. But making sure you’re well-rested and de-stressed can have significant benefits during this time. Exercise. Take time to decompress. Be careful not to overindulge in food or alcohol. They may feel comforting in the short-term, but can have serious repercussions. This may be a good time to visit (or re-visit) a grief counselor to help you over the holiday hump. The Grief Resource Center (links to https://www.griefnm.org/) offers wonderful support.
Surround yourself with people who love you and with whom you can be completely yourself around. In time, the holidays will become a source of joy again. They may be now. And that’s ok. Feeling happy will never diminish the love you have for the person you lost.