How do you get through the holidays while grieving? As 2018 is coming to an end, the Holiday Season approaches. In previous years, this might have been a time full of joy and excitement, gathering and festivities. This can be much different however when experiencing grief. The holiday season may instead be very overwhelming- perhaps even a dreaded nightmare. When someone has died in our life, it can take a great deal of time to adjust, and the first few years can be the hardest. My hope is that this list of activities and suggestions might be helpful for those of you who are dealing with your grief this holiday season, or for others who are supporting someone who is grieving.
For those who are grieving:
- Make plans. Even if you feel as though you don’t want to, it is much easier to cancel on your plans last minute, than wish you had somewhere to go and you don’t. See if you can connect with someone close to you to make plans, with both of you knowing that if you are not feeling up to it, you may cancel last minute, and that’s ok.
- Acknowledge the person who is missing from the holidays. Perhaps this is talking about them over the holiday meals, talking with others who knew them, or having a photo or item of theirs present during this time. Some people have saved that person’s seat at the table, or even placed a framed photo of them in their spot to keep their presence known.
- Make their favourite meal. The holiday times tend to be filled with shared meals, and making your loved one’s favourite meal can be one way of bringing them to the festivities, and creating a space to remember them.
- Go to their favourite place. Perhaps there was somewhere your person loved to be, or that reminds you of them. Maybe it is where their body or ashes lay, or where they loved to go when they were living. It can even be where you remember them in the home.
- Play their favourite music, movie or tv show. Sometimes bringing out their favourite forms of entertainment can connect us to memories and to them.
- Take time to think about them. Sometimes this is just what the mind, body and soul ordered. Time taken to just sit and think about them can remind us that the person who died, lived; and they mattered to you. Spending purposeful time thinking about them is very important in the grieving process, and doing so over the holidays can help to manage this season without them.
For those who are supporting someone who is grieving:
- Make plans with the person who is grieving. They might be hesitant or even insistent that they don’t want to- I encourage you to offer an open invitation nonetheless.
- Talk about the person who died. It can be hard for the grieving to bring up the person who died for many reasons. Perhaps they think no one wants to talk about it, fear that they might cry, or that others have moved forward with their lives. Starting the conversation can be very welcoming and can give permission to the grieving to talk about the person who died.
- Offer to go with, or remind the grieving to go to their loved one’s favourite place, or where they lay. It might be comforting to have you attend, or to receive the reminder of where they can go to connect with their loved one.
- Overall, meet the grieving where they are at. You may have many very helpful, heartwarming and open ideas to help them with the grief they may be feeling, but we as supporters cannot tell the grieving how to grieve – they are the ones who tell us how they are grieving and we need to listen to them.