The holidays can be stressful in even the best of times, but people who are grieving must consider and cope with a unique set of challenges. Some things to remember in this holiday season:
First, acknowledge your feelings. The season brings a lot of expectations to be cheerful and full of joy, from the jolly music to the bright decorations. It is okay when you feel out of step with the mood around you. There will be other years to come when you will feel differently.
Second, make a plan and also have a “Plan B.” Think about what you want to do ahead of time and give yourself permission to do things differently than you’ve done them before. Also, understand that your feelings can change abruptly, so have a backup plan or exit strategy for getting away when you need some down time.
Third, talk with others. Let family and friends know your preferences for the holidays. Family members are often in different places in their grief, so talk with them about how you want to remember your loved one when you are together, whether it is with a toast, a favorite food, a story, a lit candle or in some other meaningful way.
Fourth, accept your limits. Grief can be fatiguing as you carry the emotional weight of loss. Also, it takes a lot of energy to be emotionally up and around people. So recognize your limits, accept what you can and can’t do, and don’t feel guilty for it.
Fifth, be self-indulgent. Grief in the holidays can leave you feeling depleted, so do some things that feel self-soothing. Go to a movie, eat a tasty meal, talk with an old friend, get a gentle massage, engage in a fun activity or hobby, or find whatever might feel comforting for you.
Facing the holidays while grieving is a challenging task. The point is not to go through them perfectly or flawlessly, but just to get through them okay. Then find a small way to reward yourself for such an achievement.