The glitz and glitter in the stores, special traditions and get-togethers with family and friends make the holidays a time of anticipation and joy. However, holidays can act as a trigger for those who are grieving the death of a loved one. While some people want to ignore the holidays altogether, some want to continue traditions. What can one do?
Diane Snyder Cowan, the director of Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center, Hospice of the Western Reserve, offers the following tips:
- Recognize that the holidays may not be the same and you may feel intense feelings of grief. Try not to isolate yourself
- Talk with family members and friends about your feelings and share stories about your loved one.
- Plan ahead so you can be prepared when invited to holiday get-togethers. People who are grieving often do not have the emotional or physical energy to celebrate the holidays as have they done in the past. Let others know when you are not up to attending a gathering.
- Consider honoring your loved one through a commemorative ritual. This can be as simple as lighting a candle in his or her honor, visiting a place that holds special meaning, or baking a favorite holiday dish.
- Do what you want to do, not what you feel you should do.
- Surround yourself with those who are supportive and understanding.
- Allow someone else to do the baking, cooking and decorating this year.
- If you go to an event, take your own car so that you can leave when you choose.
- Shop using catalogs or the Internet or don’t shop at all this year.
- Do something for others: volunteer at a soup kitchen or bake and deliver muffins to a homebound neighbor.
“There is no calendar for grief. Give yourself permission and time to grieve,” Snyder Cowan says. “The first year, things may seem surreal. You may still be in a fog. The second or third holiday season can be just as difficult as your new reality sets in. Be kind and gentle to yourself. Honor your time to grieve.”