The holidays are often a time of peace and joy, for gathering with family and friends and enjoying one another’s company. But this can also be a period of great sorrow for those who have lost a loved one. Navigating the holiday after a loss is a difficult and emotional journey, and we’re here to guide you through. The Calli Institute offers paths for coping that can help during this season of grieving.
Holiday celebrations may be especially tough if you don’t feel like celebrating. Losing a close friend or family member hurts on so many levels and acknowledging that pain is part of the healing process. Even if most of those around you are jovial, it’s okay and genuinely valid to not feel festive. Allow yourself to feel every emotion – the good, the bad, and everything in between.
And, yes – it is acceptable for you to experience happiness, even in this time of despair. If you need to cry, let it out. If you feel like smiling, please do. Everyone’s grieving process is different, and there is no wrong way to feel when someone is missing from your life.
Think of ways to honor your loved one and make his or her memory part of this year’s holiday. Hang up their seasonal décor for a family gathering and share memories of holidays past. Maybe your grandmother baked cookies or served a specific dish each year; those ideas can be replicated by you or another family member to carry on the legacy. If your favorite uncle loved carols, start singing and encourage others to join in.
Set a place at the table for your absent loved one or light a candle in their memory. Look at old photographs with family or friends and reminisce about earlier times and celebrations. Sharing as a group helps you and others work through the grief and provides a common circle of support.
Your loss likely feels magnified by the holiday and may seem overwhelming. That’s perfectly normal. While thinking about and remembering your loved one, know that those memories are their own treasures. The stories you have about holidays with Grandpa or exchanging presents with your great aunt are their own gifts. And while these memories may make you sad, try to remember how these people influenced your life and the good times you shared.
Revel in the idea that you are who you are because of the relationships you’ve cultivated over the years and decades. Though that special person may be gone, try to appreciate the richness of your being that stems from having known him or her. This will also help their memory become a happier one over time. And someday you’ll smile when you hear a song or utter a phrase or see an image that reminds you of them.
With so much going on this time of year, it’s almost too easy to navigate the holiday by doing whatever it takes to get by. Be sure to also take care of yourself, as grief can take a heavy toll on the body.
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially if you find yourself crying often. Get enough rest and be sure to stay nourished. Your needs may be the furthest things from your mind, but self-care is particularly important when you’re experiencing so many emotions.
If you can summon the energy, try taking a walk – or go for a jog. Physical activity helps with loss by releasing endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Exercise may not erase the pain, but it can help you work through the sadness.
Navigating the holiday after a loss is a journey you don’t have to take alone. If you feel overpowered by emotion and grief, please know that it’s okay to ask for help. Take advantage of your support system, whether that involves relying on a friend or relative to assist with daily chores or reaching out to a professional like The Calli Institute. Our team of mental health specialists provides a wide range of experience to support you through difficult times. Reach out to us today for to learn more, ask questions, and find guidance.