Loss. We are never ready when we loss a family member, a relative, a friend or a coworker. Holiday times can be especially difficult to celebrate if there is an empty spot in your heart and at your dining room table. Your first year after the death of your loved one is the most difficult. And your following years will still leave sadness in your heart.
1) Accept your feelings
Don’t feel you have to happy and joyful for anyone else.
No matter how long it’s been since your child died every holiday is very painful. No parent is ever prepared for their child’s death. Even years after your child’s death, important events and milestones in the lives of other children can trigger grief. Significant days such as graduations, weddings, or the first day of a new school year are common triggers. At these times, you may find yourself thinking about how old your child would be or what he or she would look like or be doing if still alive.
Many people do dread this coming holiday season because they have lost somebody recently and that is OK.
Some churches do offer what is called a Blue Christmas. A Blue Christmas is a service for families and individuals who experience loss and grief this year to help people still experience religious per Christmas and acknowledges that this is a very difficult time for them. See https://www.firstbaptistottawa.ca/ev…/blue-christmas-service for their Dec 19, 2019 Blue Service date. Many places of worship offer a Blue Christmas early in the holiday season in November or early December.
The reality is we never “get over” someone’s death – we just move through the feelings of grief and loss and we find yourself in a new place. Even after death of your loved one we develop a different relationship with the person who has died. Coping with your grief is more difficult if you don’t have someone to share it with. And not every family member will feel the same way. Reach out to help or support groups for help. Many men experience significant loss and isolation following the death of their spouse.
While it’s normal to want to be by yourself and cry – watch out that you don’t isolate yourself from everyone.
2)Take things slowly and communicate your wishes and needs to your family
If getting out to celebrate one family event over the holidays is your limit then that’s OK
Don’t push yourself to celebrate if you are sad
Be honest. Tell people what you DO want to do for the holidays and what you DON’T want to do.
Skip holiday events if you are in holiday overload. Don’t feel guilty about skipping events if you’re experiencing holiday overload! This is about being honest and true to yourself about what you need. Remember not everyone will feel the same way or react the same way you will to death. If another family member is happy while you are sad, please accept we all respond or react to death differently. There is no right or wrong way yo react after someone has died.
If you need someone to host dinner ask or even order in. If you are up to hosting dinner but don’t have the energy to cook, there is nothing wrong with ordering in or asking your family to take on the cooking responsibilities. If you can’t do Christmas or Hannukah or any holiday gatherings because you are too sad – let your family know. You need to put yourself first this season.
3) Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one
Your relationship with your loved one changes after she or he dies
It doesn’t mean that they are forgotten it just means that they are no longer physically present in your life
How do you want to honour and remember them over the holidays?
– light a candle
– Include their favourite food and a meal
– Find a time to remember and talk about them as a family
– Buy a gift you would have given to your loved one and donate it to a local charity
– Make a memory ornament
– Visit their gravesite and decorated for the holidays
– If you have younger children talk to them about what it will be like this Christmas not having that special person with them.
– Do you let your younger children know that it’s certainly OK for them to be happy and excited about the holidays even if you are sad
– Put out the photo or leave an empty space for them at the table.
4) Ask for help and support
If you are struggling emotionally this isn’t the time to try to be a superhero and do everything yourself. If the holidays have always been celebrated your home or you’re the one who’s always done all the cooking – now is the time to let people know you can’t do it.
The holiday season is no time to feign strength and independence when you’re grieving a death. If you need help and support of others to get through, please ask so don’t feel as if you are a burden. Most people want to help but may not know what to do or how to approach helping you.
5) Get your needs met
The same holds true for your emotional needs. Friends and family members might feel uncomfortable talking about your grief. Remember not everyone is comfortable talking about death and most of us have no idea how to talk with or about someone’s death. Don’t be afraid to talk about your special memories of your loved one. Other people might think that you don’t want to talk about your loss and grief. Most people are uncomfortable when it comes to dealing with death and loss. They might be afraid to bring up the topic because they don’t want to be reminded of your pain.
Do you find a support group for yourself and if you need an individual counsellor or psychotherapist to get your personal needs met. Again there is no right or wrong way to grieve our loss. But if you are still not feeling like yourself after six months, please seek out professional help.
If happiness slips through your window of grief, allow it to happen and enjoy it. You won’t be doing your loved one an injustice by feeling joyous. The best gift you can give anyone you love is that of being true to yourself and living your life to the fullest, even as you adjust to the loss and remember your loved ones who are no longer with us here on earth.
We’re here to listen.