When you ask someone who is grieving the death of a loved one, “what do you want for Christmas?” the typical answer is “to have my loved one back, have life the way it once was.”

Traditions are made from past celebrations including the holidays,
birthdays and anniversaries. Continuing those celebrations after your loved one has died can be painful because what you are feeling inside and celebrating on the outside causes many mix emotions. The experience can be magnified by more joy, gifts, and social occasions. This is followed by more tears, loneliness, yearning to be with their loved one; it now becomes a time to dread rather than celebration.

Holidays are about being together to make more memories and traditions. What is actually happening is a renewed sense of personal grief; memories of holidays past are too painful, trying to make new ones adds to that grief.

Here are suggestions to help you cope:

Communicate, listen to your heart, inform family members what you would like to do while considering their needs; it’s a delicate balance.

Allow tears- don’t be afraid to cry in public; talk about your loved one, use their name, remember past holidays, encourage others to do the same.

Don’t be afraid to change traditional routines for this year. Try whatever pops into your head. YOU CAN ALWAYS CHANGE IT BACK LATER, NOTHING IS WRITTEN IN CONCRETE.

Hold on to your charge cards. Do not try to mask
the pain by “CHARGING” through the stores. Be a “list maker, stick with it, ask a friend to give you support.

Plan ahead- ANTICIPATION is worst then the actual day itself.
Simplify plans, let go of those you cannot handle or delegate to other family members.

Honor the memory of your loved one: place a memorial ornament on the tree, decorate their grave, donate flowers to church, donate to a charity in their name, cook their favorite foods, or place mementos and pictures of past holidays in a memory book.

Take care of yourself physically and emotionally: lots of rest, eat nutritiously, exercise, let the grief come, deal with it, know that it is a normal part of the grieving process.

Try to renew your faith. Attend a holiday service or memorial ceremony. Have a special prayer at a family gathering.

Don’t be afraid to enjoy yourself. It is not disrespectful to laugh and have fun; you may find that you are laughing and crying at the same time.

Remember these are guidelines to help you cope. Everyone is unique, and what works for you may not work for others. Repeat “I will do what is easier and best for me”.

Written and compiled by:
Carole McLeod, Bereavement Facilitator
Grief Matters

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