The holidays are here and although they can be a time of joy, they also can be a time of sorrow, remembering those who are no longer with us. Grieving the loss of a loved one is a deep and difficult challenge at any time. But the holiday season can magnify the loss and mourning. Many face the holidays with dread and their joy is overshadowed by sorrow and loss.
Family gatherings and seasonal events can be painful reminders of the absence of a loved one. At the same time, they can also be comforting as you spend time with family and friends, focusing on good memories.
Most importantly, think about what is meaningful for you and your loved ones. Sometimes, continuing traditions is the most comforting. Other times, starting new traditions can be healing and offer new opportunities. Make time to share your ideas and hopes with other family members and close friends. Find out what their expectations, needs and desires are as well. Together, you can create a meaningful family gathering and holiday events. Give yourself and others permission to enjoy the season.
Another important consideration is “self-care.” It is easy to put your own needs and desires – and even emotions – aside for the sake of others. It is valuable to truly consider your own needs and wants. This may be as simple as scheduling time to be alone and allowing yourself to experience whatever emotions or feelings arise. Also, don’t forget the basics: rest, eat well and drink plenty of water. Make time for physical activity such as going for a walk around the block.
While planning gatherings and other holiday activities, it is helpful to have a plan. But, it is just as important to be flexible when change occurs. It is easy to want to control every detail because loss and death reminds us there is so much in life we can’t control. However, being flexible with the minor details can bring a great sense of peace. Remember, the most important thing is spending time together.
This may be the year to scale back. Take into account your emotional and physical needs. Take time to determine what you really want to be part of and what you may want to release. Consider what is meaningful and fun and look for ways to share tasks with others. Create realistic expectations for yourself and others.
There is no right way or wrong way to navigate through this part of your journey. Some people want to talk extensively about their loved one who is not with them this year; others may not want to talk about them at all. Some people will strive to keep everything the same, while others will want everything to be different. Again, this is where being understanding, flexible and supportive of yourself and others is vital.
Recognize and accept that things have changed. Acknowledging that things are different not only brings a sense of acceptance, but also brings peace and comfort. Every day is a new opportunity to create new memories while building on the traditions and memories you hold dear. Just like no two snowflakes are the same, neither are two holidays the same. Each moment and holiday brings new experiences and the chance to create new memories.
The holidays are a “season of giving.” Although you may feel drained and depleted, there is a great deal of strength and joy that comes from giving to others. Think about how your loved one liked to give to others and consider doing something similar in their honor. This could be as simple as volunteering at a local church or organization or making a donation in a loved one’s name to a charity or cause he or she cared about and supported. You might purchase something that symbolizes the person or time before your loss and donate it to a needy family.
Most importantly, be gentle and be nice to yourself. Don’t judge how you are feeling and surround yourself with those close friends and family who can offer support, a kind word and a shoulder. Laugh when you can and cry when you have to. Be open to this new chapter of your life’s novel. FBN
Bereavement support group:
Northland Hospice and Palliative Care (dba Vista Hospice) offers free support groups and bereavement counseling to help family members and friends after the loss of a loved one. “Life After Loss” support groups are offered twice a month in Flagstaff, Williams and Sedona.
For more than 30 years, Northland Hospice & Palliative Care (dba Vista Hospice) has provided physical, emotional and spiritual care to patients facing a life-limiting illness, and their families, regardless of ability to pay. The not-for-profit organization also owns and operates The Hodgepodge Thrift Store and The Olivia White Hospice Home – a 10-bed hospice home for those who need hospice care but are unable to stay in their home. To learn more about Vista Hospice, visit VistaHospice.org or call 928-779-1227. Like us on Facebook.
By Peggy Sheldon-Scurlock, M.A., bereavement counselor