Grieving is complicated.
You cannot wait for the moments when you can finally feel joy again, but the second you do, you feel guilty for having a good time. The holiday season is full of chances to feel joy and love, but when the ghost of a loved one haunts your mind, it becomes hard to take those chances.
Fortunately, everything heals with time. Your grieving will eventually feel easier, but this holiday season, what can you do?
Here are some tips for getting through it all.
Set Boundaries as Needed
You are under no obligation to attend every holiday party you are invited to. Some help you feel better, while others just feel like energy zappers. Before you RSVP, check if you need a little TLC.
If you feel iffy about attending an event, push yourself to go anyway, expecting that you can leave whenever you want to. Get comfortable saying goodbyes early or turning people down when you know it is what you need. Finding balance is the most important thing.
Acknowledge Your Grief
Your feelings at this time are completely valid, even if they make little sense to you.
Maybe the family is gathering at the home of the deceased loved one for a holiday celebration. If you find yourself having a good time, let it happen. There is no reason to feel wrong or guilty. If anything, you are celebrating their life more by fully enjoying yours in a space they cherished.
You are also allowed to feel lonely and heavy in a room full of partiers, even if it feels out of place. Every emotion is valid.
Holiday parties come with opportunities to numb the pain through substances like alcohol. Avoid these for now, as they will only prolong your mental stress or lead to a public breakdown you may regret.
Plan Ahead to Fill Their Roles
Don’t let the shock of a loved one’s passing take you by surprise more than it has to this year. Plan ahead by delegating their previous roles—like organizing the annual gift exchange or cooking the full dinner spread—to other family members.
This will help keep the holidays moving smoothly without unexpected bursts of grief.
Honor Them with New & Old Traditions
Don’t be afraid to acknowledge the elephant in the room: someone is missing from the family table. Plan to raise a toast to their life, share a moment of silence, or start an activity they would have loved as a new tradition.
If you have kids, try to keep up with the same traditions you normally do, like cookie decorating days. Consider adjusting activities so that they are reasonable for you. For example, if you are struggling with spontaneous crying, watch holiday movies from home instead of attending a play or movie theater.
Recruit help in making kids’ holiday season special by passing off some activities to grandparents, siblings, or family friends. This may even make your holiday season feel richer by staying in touch with your support network.
Volunteer at Holiday Drives or Food Banks
Take your mind off of grieving by filling your heart with the love of helping others. The holiday season comes with many opportunities to shop for a family in need, volunteer at a holiday dinner celebration, or collect warm items for people who are homeless.
Repeat Realistic and Not Overly Positive Affirmations to Yourself
Affirmations are powerful ways we can influence our mood for the better and set it for the day ahead. Try some of these this year to meet yourself where you are at:
- I am not alone.
- I am allowed to express my emotions freely.
- I have done my best, and that is enough.
- I am worthy of care and affection.
- I am not afraid of having a good life.
- I will persist.
Sometimes, it just helps to have someone to talk to. Start counseling today for a listening ear that understands and knows that you can (and will) get through this.