The holidays are often thought of as a joyful time of the year, filled with the sights, sounds, and traditions often associated with seasonal cheer. If you are coping with the death of a family member or other loved one, the holidays can be a difficult time.
The holiday season may be full of reminders of the loss in your life. And it is not just recent losses that can cause you distress. During the holidays, feelings of grief can seem fresh, even if a loved one died years ago.
At a time of year when many people feel compelled to follow holiday traditions, letting yourself do something different can be helpful. Some people find it comforting to be with family and friends, emphasizing the familiar. Others may wish to avoid old traditions and try something new.
Hospice professionals, who help families cope with loss throughout the year, offer some tips for coping with grief during the holidays:
- Plan for the approaching holidays. Recognize that the holidays might be a difficult time for you. The stress may affect you emotionally, mentally, and physically. This is a normal reaction. Be prepared and gentle with yourself.
- Be aware that the holidays will not be the same. Expecting everything to seem the same might lead to disappointment. Doing things differently acknowledges the change in your life but still offers continuity with the past.
- Be careful not to isolate yourself. It is important to take quiet, reflective time for yourself but also allow yourself the support offered from friends and family. If you cannot be together in person, telephone calls, Zoom or Skype calls can be a way to stay in touch.
- The holidays may affect other family members. Talk over your plans and share your feelings. Respect others’ choices and needs.
- Avoid additional stress. Decide what you really want to do over the holiday season and give yourself permission to avoid things you don’t want to do.
If your friend or loved one is experiencing grief during the holidays, consider these tips:
- Be willing to listen to a friend who is grieving. Active listening from friends and family is an important step to helping some cope with grief and heal. And never tell someone that he or she should get “over it.” Instead, give the person hope that, eventually, he or she will enjoy the holidays again.
- Follow up after the holidays to check in. Given the activity of the season, some people may make it through the holidays without any concerns, but they might find the post-holiday period to be more difficult. Checking in with some who is grieving after the holidays to see how he or she may be doing is helpful.
Your local community hospice can be a source of information to help you or a loved one cope with grief and loss or to find other community resources that may be helpful.