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The Holidays After the Loss of a Loved One

Published: November 21, 2018
by Dr. Rev. Mary Bivens

The holiday season is here.  Plans are being made to prepare traditional dinners as well as coordinate family gatherings.  People are shopping for gifts and planning parties.  However, you have lost a loved one.  How is it possible that the world seems to continue amid your grief and loss?  How can you deal with the season of joy amid your sadness? Today I am offering you some tips on traversing this new and perhaps unchartered path in your life.

First, do not avoid the holidays. It is impossible to ignore them while living in this age of technology and social media.  Instead, accept the fact that you are grieving and recognize that you are missing your loved one as well as the rituals and memories around that person.

Be honest with yourself and accept your feelings.  When others ask how you are doing, be honest with yourself and others.  People often do not know how to help those grieving, so sharing your feelings serves two purposes. First, you consciously own your emotions. Second, those around you know what you are experiencing.  Choose to surround yourself with people who understand your grief.  It is important to be able to cry openly as well as share good memories of your loved one with those who understand your grief.

Accept that the holidays will be different from this time going forward.  Determine which traditions you wish to continue as well as those you no longer want to keep.  Along with this, decide which traditions you may want to change. Consider that this is an opportunity to create new traditions in memory of your loved one.

Determine ahead of time what events and activities you feel like attending.  Choose only those that are meaningful to you.  Accept the fact that when the time arrives, you may not want to participate. That is okay. These are new waters for you to travel, and the trip unfolds as you go forward.  Scale back on shopping and gift-giving. Perhaps consider purchasing gift cards and using mail-order or internet if this is important to you.  Simplify when you can and want.

Take care of yourself.   Get enough sleep and eat regularly.  However, be cautious that you do not replace sleep, food or drugs and alcohol for the void left by your loved one’s loss.  Exercise daily.  During

physical activity, the body produces hormones, called endorphins, that are the body’s natural antidepressants.  In effect, exercise elevates one’s mood.

Someone once said, “Remember to remember your loved ones.”  Honor the memory of your loved one.  Perhaps, incorporate something meaningful from a loved one in a coming holiday celebration. For example, display a familiar ornament or prepare a special, favored dish to share.  Or, create a new tradition in honor of your loved one. For example, if your loved one was an educator who spent his life teaching children to read, donate new books to a local library in his name.  Your loved one died, but the memories can continue.   Cherish them as well as use them at this time.

Most importantly, remember you are not alone in this journey of grief. Others share your feelings of loss as well.  There are support groups and people willing to help you as you go forward. And, we are with you as you travel these often-unchartered waters.  Please remember we are here for you as well.  Meacham Funeral Service offers a free therapy session for all families we serve.

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