Entering the holiday season after experiencing a loss can be scary. It means doing a lot of firsts without a loved one around.
While the holidays might be an exciting time for most people, it’s very difficult for those who have experienced the loss of someone they truly loved. You’re expected to be cheerful with everyone else, when in reality, you’re still grieving. Not having the person you used to celebrate with can make the holidays feel dreadful. But keep in mind that the person you lost more than likely cared deeply about your well-being and wants you to be able to enjoy life.
If you're having a tough time moving forward and imagining the holiday season without a loved one around this year, here are some ways you can make that transition a little bit easier.
Communicate with Family and Friends
Don’t let yourself feel so alone. Make sure the people you surround yourself with know what you need. Let them be there for you during this time. Trying to put on a happy face can be a draining and miserable thing. You’re not alone – there are people who care about you and want to support you, so talk to them when you need to vent and lean on them during this difficult time. They can also be your motivation to keep moving forward. Having people around to get you out of the house and to help you do little things each day is good for you.
These people may also be grieving the same loved one, so being together during the holidays is a great way to cope and keep your loved one’s memory alive. Keep in mind that others may grieve differently than you, so remove all expectations and support each other in any way you can.
Honor Your Loved One during the Holidays
Doing things to incorporate the person you lost into your holiday season can be a way for you to grieve them and honor their memory. Psychology Today suggests these five things for including your loved one during the holidays:
Light a candle or say a prayer for them. Having a special moment or prayer in honor of the person you lost can help you cope. Your faith might be a big part of your overall healing, so don’t be afraid to embrace it.
Share a story about them and ask everyone to do the same. Reminiscing on old memories with your loved one is a way to keep their memory alive. Talk about the funny things you remember and anything about them that brings you joy. Let others talk about their memories too.
Make your loved one’s favorite dish or recipe, and name it for them (Grandma’s apple pie). Just the taste or smell of something can remind you of someone. Include it in your menu for the future and make it part of your holiday traditions. Name it after them to give the tradition more meaning.
Repeat a tradition that your loved one may have started or liked. This might be a recipe they cooked, a movie they enjoyed, a board game, or an activity they always took part in. Do this in their honor.
Show pictures of them. A picture is worth a thousand words. Bring out the photo albums and old home videos and play them during the holidays.
These practices might help to bring you some joy in the midst of your pain. A friend of mine who tragically lost her daughter told me that the most important thing to her is to make sure no one ever forgets her daughter. It means so much to her when she sees pictures or hears stories. Keep sharing memories of them and do things that are a pleasant reminder of them.
Go to Therapy
It's so important to talk to someone when you’re grieving. This can be a hard thing to do for some people, so a therapist is a great resource. They can help you work out your feelings and guide you in the steps you need to keep moving forward. They’re also an unbiased source for those who don’t want to talk to someone they know.
Make sure the people you surround yourself with know what you need.
Create New Traditions
Don't be afraid or feel guilty about trying new things and making new traditions. Making new memories is not erasing the memories you had with the person you lost. You need to do things to keep moving forward. And you can still honor your loved ones with these new traditions. They would want you to be happy and for you to be living life to the fullest.
Doing charity work might be a great way to help alleviate your sadness. You will be bringing joy to those in need. There are so many different ways you can serve others: volunteer at a soup kitchen, work with children in need, or volunteer at an animal shelter. Find something that gets you out of the house, allows you to shift your focus onto others, and helps the less fortunate.
Navigating the holidays after a loss is going to be hard. There is no easy solution to make it better, but the important thing is to keep moving forward. You’re going to be dealing with lots of different emotions. Make sure you lean on those who offer their support, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help. The person you lost would want the best for you. Take it one day at a time, and try to create new memories while remembering the old ones. You can get through this!
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