The holidays are not necessarily a happy, merry time – especially for people whose loved one had died or left them during the past year, or even the past several years. In fact, if you’re one of the multi-millions of people who suffer such a loss each year, the holidays tend to increase the feelings of grief and despair.
Over four million people die each year in the U.S., and almost one million divorce each year leaving countless loved ones engulfed in grief. If you’re one of those grieving, chances are the holidays only accentuate your sadness and sense of loss.
Are there ways to get through Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year with minimal suffering and some level of enjoyment? Please be assured there are ways to make the holidays more bearable and even pleasant.
I know this journey first hand. My first wife Lisa died 10 days before Christmas, and my second wife was divorced before the holidays. It made the first holiday season for each of us unbearable. Although I spend that first Christmas like a zombie, in subsequent years I found ways that helped me and can help you have a far more positive experience. Here are my personal tips to get through the holidays after suffering the loss of a loved one:
- Turn to Hospice for help. Hospice is not only for the dying but for the living as well. Hospice provides individual and group counseling for those left behind.
- Keep your expectations for yourself and the holidays reasonable. Don’t put undue pressure on yourself by “demanding” that you act and feel a certain way. Things will be different and probably not as merry as before – at least for a while. But you can experience some degree of happiness and enjoyment.
- Feel your feelings. Don’t stuff them down. Cry and feel sad. But don’t allow them to engulf you. Have a written list of things you can do that will help you feel better – watch a funny movie, listen to uplifting music, play your favorite sport, meditate, take a bubble bath, engage in your favorite hobby.
- Do something for someone else. Even find a group that helps others at Christmas and join in. My second wife joined a group to feed the hungry at Christmas when she found herself alone. Go to a nursing home to sing Christmas carols. Ger outside yourself and your own miseries and bring joy to others. In turn, it will bring tremendous joy to you.
- Surround yourself with supportive, loving people. If you’re with your family, wrap yourself in their love and caring.
- Give yourself a break. Don’t feel like you must make the holidays happen for others. Pass the baton to someone else without feeling any guilt. Let someone else cook the turkey and clean up the kitchen. Be a pampered person and let people do the work for you.
- Reminisce with family and friends. Talk openly about your loved one and share memories with others. Let laughter and happy times remind you of your loved one’s life.
- Journal, journal, journal. Write out your feelings and thoughts commit them to paper. It is a remarkable healing process – scientific research has proved it. Journaling will help you get through the holidays and, if you continue to journal, it will take you well beyond.
The holidays without your loved one is not easy, but you can make it through. I went through faking happiness for my kids, to no decorations when my kids got older. Now that I have remarried I learned to celebrate in a new way by decorating the Christmas tree accompanied by the Cheetah Girls Christmas music. If I can get over my loss and enjoy the holidays again, I know you can.