A few weeks ago, I did something pretty unprecedented. For the first time in over twenty years, I put up a Christmas tree. To some, that may not seem like a big deal, as people anxiously await this time of year to gather as a family and begin the tradition of holiday decorating. But for me, the holidays have always been a time of sadness due to long-term grief from my grandfather’s passing.
As a “grandaddy’s girl,” the holiday season was always a special time for the two of us. It was a time for us to drink eggnog, listen to the blues, and decorate our tree. It was also a time where he would tell me funny stories like how he had three wives and that “none of them were worth shit” until he met my grandmother. But when he passed away in 2001, a few weeks shy of my 16th birthday, he seemingly took my holiday spirit with him. Causing me to loathe this time of year.
Many people who have lost loved ones, especially those who have lost them close to the holiday season share the same sentiment. Because while everyone is looking forward to food, friends, family, and fellowship, many are reminded of the fact that someone they love dearly is no longer around to participate in the festive activities that this time of year brings. Intensifying their grief and making them want nothing more than to spend time with those who have passed on.
And while everyone’s grieving process is different, here are eight coping mechanisms for navigating holiday grief.
1.Acknowledge your grief.
The first step in overcoming anything is to allow yourself the opportunity to feel what you are feeling. You are human and expected to mourn your deceased loved ones. Especially if the holidays remind you of a significant experience that you shared with them. That and, there is nothing strong about suppressing your grief. No matter what anyone tells you. So please, acknowledge your feelings.
2.Take a break from this year’s holiday celebrations.
Sometimes being around people can be overwhelming and make you miss those you have lost. So it’s totally fine to decline dinner invites and other gatherings in favor of spending a quiet evening alone.
3.Create new holiday traditions.
Doing things how you used to, especially with your loved one who has passed on, can be a constant reminder of them no longer being here. Changing how you celebrate by establishing new traditions is a great way to enjoy this time of year while grieving. So celebrate with new people, try different foods, and take a trip. Do something new that will help you get the most out of the holiday season.
Is there an ornament that reminds you of them? Or a movie they enjoyed that you and your family can watch together? Or maybe they had a favorite food that you can add to the dinner spread? Sometimes, one of the best ways to cope with your holiday grief is to do something that will remind you of them. This allows you to incorporate them into your celebrations while making new memories.
Giving your time to someone who needs it most is not only good for your soul, but it’s good to take your mind off of things. While grieving, stepping outside of your sadness to pour into the less fortunate can do more good for you than you think. You can even take it a step further by volunteering with organizations or causes that your deceased loved ones were passionate about. And if you can’t find it in you to donate your time, monetary or in-kind donations are just as good.
6.Communicate with them.
Even though they’re no longer here in the earthly realm, those who have passed on are still here spiritually. And are only a short prayer or conversation away. Talking to them keeps their memory alive and also allows you to express what you’ve been feeling. Want to take it a step further? Take some flowers to their gravesite or keep a jar of handwritten letters that you can read whenever you visit them.
7.Talk to your family and friends.
They may be experiencing some of the same feelings as you and it might do you and them some good to collectively discuss your feelings.
Sometimes holiday grief is too much to bear and the only way to cope with it is to talk with a licensed professional who can give you the tools you need to get through. Especially if you find yourself having thoughts of self-harm.
Understand that while grief is normal, it is not linear. So while some years, the holiday season may be a breeze, others may not. The most important thing to remember is to give yourself grace, surround yourself with love and support, and know that over time, things will get better.
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