Following the loss of someone close leaves a certain trepidation of days to come … birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, will never be the same. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s can be some of the most difficult and challenging times.
Holidays are meant to spend time with those we love the most — sharing love, food, creating memories and laughter. So, how are we “celebrate” when those that we love the most will not be with us? It isn’t easy and for many people, it is the most difficult part of grieving and the time when we miss our loved ones even more.
How do we celebrate being together when there is an empty place at the table? Our sadness seems sadder, our loneliness is unfathomable and you just don’t feel like celebrating. How do we handle it? We face it head on. It is not really the grief we are trying to avoid, it is the pain that comes from it. Remember, grief is our internal feelings and mourning is our external expressions.
What to do? Say a prayer before your holiday dinner about your loved one, light a candle for them, and /or ask those in attendance to share a favorite story about them. Make a memorial wreath or ornament. Share some of your loved ones’ belongings with others as a keepsake. Change things up. Create new or different traditions. Keep the things you love but change those you don’t. Grief allows us permission to do this. Don’t be afraid to skip events if you are not feeling it. Holidays certainly will never be the same again, however, with time, most people are able to find meaning again.
Be gentle with yourself, do not do more than you want or do anything that does not serve your sole and your loss. Do allow time for the flood of feelings and let others help you. Remember, that holidays will be the toughest to navigate on your grief journey and the way we handle it is as individual as each of us.
Whatever you choose to do, it needs to be right for you, no one else. You must find your new normal. Communicate with your friends and family as your ideas on how to celebrate may be different, but work on a compromise if needed.
Do you know someone grieving and facing this busy time of year and not sure what to do? Invite them out to an event or just for a cup of coffee. Don’t ask, just do.
Rita Hagen is executive director of Hospice Alliance.