The first holiday without a loved one: coping with grief and loss
The holiday season can be a difficult time if you’ve lost someone and feel that you are spending your time without them for their absence, or if you have children and wish to influence where your children spend the holidays. There are a lot of different ways to cope during the holidays. We’ve gathered some ideas that might make the general holiday season easier and help you deal with your sadness in a healthier way.
How to spend the holidays after the loss of a loved one?
Whether it’s your first holiday season without your loved one or you’re spending the holidays with your children, you’re likely feeling some sadness. While there’s no right or wrong way to cope with grief and loss, there are ways that may make the holidays a little easier on you and your family. Some people choose to spend their time quietly in the house, while others choose to stay busy with holiday activities. Some people choose to stay in their homes, while others choose to go out.
If you usually spend your holidays with your spouse or significant other, you will find it a much more difficult task. You can choose to carry on old traditions or start new ones, do everything that feels best for you and your healing journey.
1. Carry on with your usual traditions
Some people find comfort in celebrating how they normally would because they can recall happy holidays spent together. If you normally have a big gathering with family or friends, getting to know them might help you get through this tough time. People coming together to support one another often creates a comforting sense of solidarity that can be comforting to the individuals involved.
2. Create new holiday rituals
Perhaps it doesn’t feel right to engage in the activities of this phase of life. Instead, you could create new holiday traditions and rituals that are unique to this new phase of life. These new traditions can also include honoring the person you have lost for example by visiting their grave or memorial, saying a prayer for them or lighting candles in their memory. That way, you can still remember it when you’re back at home without them. This can be a good way to honor someone who has passed from our lives or symbolize their memory and renewed attention.
3. Forgo holiday celebrations
Although it might make you feel better to spend time in reflection after the loss or death of a loved one, trying to celebrate the holidays on your own might not feel like a better option. Sometimes we experience a period of quiet reflection at home, especially when we are upset with something. On the other hand, just because you’re not taking part in your religion or leaving your religion does not mean you can’t enjoy the holidays. Having people around for support is very important for those who are grieving, and is also important when you’re celebrating.
Ways to cope with grief during the holidays
However, this post will not contain any suggestions for how you should spend your holiday! Instead, I wanted to share with you a few simple tips that will help you as you prepare for your holiday without your loved ones nearby.
1. Let yourself feel sad
Don’t feel pressure to try and be cheerful just because you’re celebrating - the holidays are a difficult time for people, and it’s perfectly normal that you may struggle emotionally. Trying to hold in your feelings can comfort you but can cause you to feel worse. So give yourself permission to cry and feel sad if you need to.
2. Don’t feel guilty for experiencing joy
You may feel guilty if you find yourself experiencing joy and happiness when your loved one is no longer with you. However, it’s okay to feel happy and enjoy the holiday season. Holidays are meant to be a time to celebrate the lives that have passed away and to look forward to what the new year has to offer. It’s important to remember that you don’t have to be sad if you don’t want to be and that you can choose how you want to celebrate the holidays.
If you are connected to family, friends, and loved ones, and you find yourself enjoying family holiday festivities or working with friends to raise money, don’t feel guilty. It does not mean that you feel guilty. As humans, we can feel a whole spectrum of emotions on any given day, and we still deserve to feel moments of joy and happiness, even in difficult times.
3. Take time if you need it
During the holidays, you may find yourself surrounded with lots of people, and all the chatter and obligations can be overwhelming. If you’re feeling emotional or anxious, find a quiet spot or, for the anxious, go out and get some fresh air. This can help you feel more grounded and give you some rest from social interaction. If you’re out, it’s absolutely acceptable to head home for a while if you need some time to unwind.
4. Talk to people about you’re feeling
In order to get through the holidays, it is important to have someone else to lean on. It is also important to have someone else to talk to because there is something that can be said. Talking about your emotions is an important way to process your emotions for many reasons. Talking helps you find the good in others because you can be open and more vulnerable. You can share your thoughts and feelings about the first holiday with those closest to you, and you’ll likely find that discussing it with other family members will make you feel more connected and supported.
5. Ask for help if you need it
Make sure to arrange gifts, food, and travel around the holidays can be stressful and is particularly overwhelming if you’re grieving. Ask a friend or neighbor if they can help you out with stuff like groceries, gifts, and planning.
6. Explore grief counseling
Friends and family can be a great support, but if you feel like you’re struggling, then consider discussing your mental health with a mental health professional. Grief counseling provides a safe, neutral space in which you can process your feelings and get some sort of solution to your emotional distress.
Be kind to yourself
The main thing to remember after having a family member lose a loved one is to be kind to yourself. You don’t have to be happy or smile if you don’t feel like it, and you don’t have to try and pretend that everything is okay. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed by the holidays, take some time for yourself, and don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself. Remember, the holidays are a difficult time for everyone, and it’s okay if you need to take a step back and prioritize yourself. Sometimes all you need is a little kindness and understanding.