It seems everywhere you go Christmas music is playing, bells are ringing, and homes are enveloped in a rainbow of lights—all signs that the winter holidays are here. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, all these signs of Christmas may accentuate grief, a continuous reminder of former days when you shared this time of year with loved ones who have passed.
Everyone grieves differently. Grief ebbs and flows and has a mysterious timetable all its own. Some people find solace in their holidays memories while others find this time of year much like the reopening of a wound. For most of us, grief is a process that swings back and forth between these two extremes.
There are a number of resources out there to help people deal with grief surrounding holidays. Griefet.org is an especially wonderful resource for grief of all kids. They’ve compiled a list of resources here that might be of help to you or someone you know. These resources are especially helpful if you’re facing your first holiday after a loss.
Here are just a few ideas gleaned from personal experience, lots of reading, and the passage of time.
* Don’t feel obligated to fulfill former holiday traditions for their sake alone. Do what feels the most peaceful. Don’t think about how you’ll get through future holidays. Just focus on the one at hand.
* Light a candle in honor of your loved one and let it burn during all holidays activities. This open and visual acknowledgement of pain that may, in fact, bring some small measure of peace.
* If you feel up to it, do something for someone else. Visit someone in a nursing home, a hospital, in jail. Donate your time to someone in need and make a committment to continue this long after the holidays are over.
* Create a gift in honor of the one you’ve lost—and then give it to someone else.
* Give a Christmas card to the one you’ve lost. Write a letter inside telling them how you feel and how much they are missed. Sometimes this kind of direct acknowledgement of pain can lead to healing.
* Here’s something I’ve been doing since I lost my own mother four years ago: Each year I make something for myself, or purchase something timeless and meaningful, and declare it from my mother. One year I made a necklace. Another year I knit some gloves. This year I’m thinking of getting a tattoo. The point here is, it’s a gift to myself in honor of my mother, something small and meaningful that reminds me of how much she loved the holidays, who she was and who she still is.
What’s helped you? If you are grieving, may you find peace in these difficult days.