Grieving during the holiday season may seem daunting to some. Holiday traditions tend to bring up memories of passed loved ones and coping with grief and the holidays is difficult.
At times we want to press fast forward and skip them altogether because the thought of celebrating without them is too emotional.
Grief and the Holidays
You may want to participate in the excitement and joy but at the same time, you don’t want to participate at all and feel guilty for celebrating. That internal conflict is normal.
Grief is complicated and unique for everyone. While accepting loss may never get easier, you can create a new normal to cope with your loss. Additionally, many people who are grieving find this time of year to be particularly challenging, you are not the only one.
“There is no right or wrong way to handle the holidays. You are in complete control of your plans as to what you will do during this time of the year.” — Richard Kauffman
While coping with grief and the holidays is a struggle, there are ways you can support yourself and the other people mourning around you. Not every bereavement process looks the same and it is important for you to remember that what works for you may be different than what works for others grieving the same loss.
From donating your time to charity to starting new traditions, there are many things you can do to support yourself through the holiday season.
Here are 8 ways to cope with grief and the holidays:
- Plan Ahead for Grief and the Holiday
- Honor Family Traditions
- Create New Traditions
- Volunteer at a Charitable Organization
- Take Care of Yourself
- Attend a Support Group on Grief and the Holidays
- Opt Out of the Holidays
- Honor Your Loved One
1. Plan Ahead for Grief and the Holiday
It is good to prepare yourself before the holidays. Do you talk with a therapist? Speak to them. Create a plan for yourself to cope with loss during celebrations. You may even want to create some grief coping skills or utilize the ones you already have. Some examples of coping skills are deep breathing, taking a walk, journaling, listening to music, or meditating.
Did the person you lost play a significant role in a holiday tradition? Plan for someone in your family to fill that position. It may not feel the same but allowing them to honor your loved one in that role can be very healing. It is important to think ahead, especially if there are children involved. Planning ahead helps you create obtainable plans and prepares your emotions for the events to come.
Planning with Children
Do you have children to consider? It is important to prepare them for the upcoming holidays. If you decide to do things differently, set their expectations. In addition, allow your children to voice their wants and needs for what the holiday season will look like. Are they feeling overwhelmed at the idea of participating in certain holiday traditions? Is there a specific tradition that is making them feel this way? Talk through those challenging topics. Work with them to find ways they can be involved in the holiday season and still honor their wants and needs.
Make Several Plans
As you have heard many times before, grief comes in waves and experiencing the ebbs and flows of grief often requires flexibility. Planning ahead is challenging because how do you know how you will feel on a particular day? Truth is, you don’t.
Making a backup plan for yourself will better serve your capacity and allow you to still enjoy your holiday, no matter what it looks like. For example, your first plan might be to attend a holiday gathering with your entire family. Your backup plan might include inviting a friend over to watch holiday movies on the couch with a frozen pizza. When the day comes, if you don’t feel up to being around a crowd of people, another plan in place for you to enjoy instead.
2. Honor Familiar Traditions
You can honor a loved one by carrying on old traditions in their memory. Holding a family holiday cookie decorating night or recreating a holiday feast that you make every year may keep the memories alive. It may be helpful to continue with old traditions that existed in order to honor and celebrate the individuals who are no longer here.
3. Create New Traditions
For some, it is too painful to honor old traditions without their loved one. Those memories make getting through the holidays too difficult and that is OK too, create new ones. Creating new traditions can be healing for individuals who are grieving during the holidays. If cooking a family feast is too hard this year, order takeout or do an activity outside of your home. If possible, go on a trip and get out of your element for a little while. A new space might just be what you need to get through the holidays.
Remember, making new memories does not erase old ones. Life is different without your loved one and it is completely normal to feel the need to change things up. Acknowledge, validate and then challenge any feelings of guilt that may arise during this time.
4. Volunteer at a Charitable Organization
Doing something good for humanity will always feel good. Volunteer at a soup kitchen to feed the homeless, find a local organization that is looking for sponsored kids to buy holiday gifts for or run a holiday 5k that supports a charitable organization. Helping people in need helps alleviate your sadness and gives you something to be thankful for. It can be hard for us to see life outside of our own pain when we are grieving, it is natural to feel that way.
However, helping someone less fortunate than us can help give us a different perspective that although our pain is not always the same as others, people are going through difficult things all around us. We have the opportunity to bring joy into someone else’s life who needs it. That is always a good thing, and very healing to the soul.
5. Take Care of Yourself
Grief can manifest physically, especially in the more emotional seasons of your life. It can affect everything from your sleep to how, what, and when you eat. As much as possible, practice self-care. Get enough sleep and make time for quick naps if needed. Eat nourishing food and always drink the recommended amount of water for your body. Exercise or spend some time outdoors during the day. Get some fresh air and take some deep, long breaths. The mind-body connection is powerful and taking care of your physical self can help you as you grieve.
You may be the one that keeps your family together, or maybe you have children that do not know how to cope with grief and the holidays. It is OK if you have people depending on you during this time, however, it is essential to not neglect your own grief.
6. Attend a Support Group on Grief and the Holidays
Grief during the holidays is normal and many people are facing emotions associated with loss. Local community centers and religious organizations often offer grief support groups. If you see a counselor or therapist, they may be able to recommend grief support groups in your area for you to attend (GriefShare is an excellent one ). Connecting with others who are grieving can help provide a sense of understanding and mutual support.
Maybe talking to strangers in person is too intimidating, there are also online support groups. Connecting with others who have experienced a loss similar to yours can be healing.
7. Opt Out of the Holidays
Does it all seem too overwhelming? It is OK to skip it completely. It is up to you to set boundaries and do what is best for your healing process. Just make sure if you are opting out of celebrating to communicate your plans clearly with others so everyone is on the same page.
8. Honor Your Loved One
Want to create a new tradition that acknowledges the one you lost? There are many ways you can remember and honor your loved one during the holiday season.
Here are ideas for how to honor loved ones during the holidays:
- Visit their final resting site
- Set a place for them at the table
- Look at old pictures and home videos
- Light a candle for them
- Bake their favorite treat
- Create a holiday scrapbook of pictures or other mementos from past holidays
- Make memorial ornaments or wreaths
- Watch a holiday movie they loved
- Make a toast during a holiday meal in remembrance of them
- Set up a memory table
- Hang a stocking in memory with their name on it
Final Thoughts on Grief and the Holidays
In conclusion, you can participate and not participate in whatever feels right for you. While there may be pressure to attend a holiday party, family gathering, or holiday movie—do what is right for you.
While coping with grief and the holidays is difficult, it is not impossible to get through.
If you would like to hold a memorial to honor your loved one during the holiday season, a member of the Coastal Funeral Center team can assist you and your family. Contact us online or give us a call at (310) 326-6343.
About Coastal Funeral Center
At Coastal Funeral Center, we are committed to being dedicated guardians of family and community, while holding on to the legacy we established as a family-owned funeral home. Originally A.M Gamby Funeral Home, Coastal Funeral Center joined Green Hills Memorial Park in 2018 to better serve the community of the South Bay and Palos Verdes Peninsula. During this transition, we expanded our services as an all-inclusive facility and built on the successes of Green Hills Memorial Park. We’re proud of our legacy of personal service and our deep roots in the community, which we’ve been part of for more than 80 years. We provide customized funeral service options that meet your financial needs and honor your loved one like the beautiful individual they were. To learn more, visit https://coastalfuneralcenter.com.