If you’ve recently lost a loved one, you know that the holidays are especially difficult. Holidays are a time where everyone is supposed to be happy. You may feel like you have to put on a false smile and join in traditional celebrations even though you don’t feel like making merry. Cherished traditions and family dinners can never be the same because that special loved one is no longer with you. Seeing the empty chair at the dining table is a painful experience because you have so many beautiful memories with your loved one.
So how can you deal with the holidays when you’re still hurting from their recent death? Here are some suggestions to help you enjoy the holidays again, even when you’re grieving over your loss.
Honor the Loved One Who Passed Away
During the holidays, you may find it helpful to find a way to honor your loved one’s memory. Light a candle for them. You can even offer a toast to their memory at the holiday family dinner. Donate to your loved one’s favorite charity, or, better yet, start a charity of your own in their name. ZenBusiness points out that it’s not all that difficult to get a nonprofit up and running, as long as you follow the rules and regs of the IRS and your state.
Decide How to Celebrate
Before the holidays arrive, discuss with your family the types of activities and events you feel comfortable doing. Events and activities you participated in when your loved one was alive may trigger strong feelings of sadness. You and your family may not want to go caroling on Christmas Eve because that’s something you always did with the loved one who is no longer alive. Or maybe you used to always go out of town during the holidays, but now that the loved one is gone, the family would rather just stay home.
Take Time for Yourself
Sometimes just the simple things can help you heal when you are grieving. Curl up in front of the fireplace with a good book. Cuddle with another loved one or your pet. Put the kids in the car and go driving around to look at holiday lights and decorations. You can even take the holiday weekend to watch a holiday movie marathon.
Talk about Your Feelings
Don’t be afraid to speak about your feelings with other people who are grieving over the death. Talking about the person who died helps with the healing process. Besides, you know that everyone in your family is thinking about the dead loved one. So why avoid mentioning that person’s name?
Volunteer During the Holidays
Sometimes helping others during our own time of grief can bring us peace. If possible, volunteer for a charity or other nonprofit organization that helps people who are sick or suffering. Whether you help out at a toy drive, serve turkey and dressing at a soup kitchen, visit a children’s hospital to spend time with sick kids or anything in between, the time you spent making other people smile will help you deal with your grief.
When you are grieving over a family member’s death, you need time to process your loss. Don’t be afraid to tell well-meaning people that you’d don’t feel ready to attend their holiday events. Explain to people that you still aren’t ready to fully participate in holiday celebrations. Most people will understand, even if you cancel on them at the last minute.
If it’s always been your job to host the family holiday party, ask someone else to take over the responsibility. If the idea of organizing the annual party, cooking tons of food and decorating the house seems too overwhelming, you don’t have to be the host or hostess this year.
Join a Support Group
Consider joining a support group that helps people deal with grief. Sharing your feelings with people that are always grieving over a loved one’s death can make you understand you’re not alone and that other people have lost loved ones too.
When you’re dealing with the death of someone you love, the holidays can be a painful experience. Everywhere you look, you see families enjoying time together. And it seems unbelievable that your loved one is truly gone. During this challenging time, it’s important to reevaluate your family holiday traditions to determine which activities and events you wish to continue.
Talk about your feelings with other family members or a support group and seek ways to honor your loved one’s memory through holiday rituals or volunteer work. Although your holidays will never be the same, you can find ways to deal with your grief and gradually grow toward learning to love the holidays once again.