Grief and the Holidays
After someone dies, you may find that your grief surfaces again and again. Often this seems to happen "out of the blue" and it may feel like an unwelcome intrusion. You may be enjoying yourself one moment and then be in tears the next. You may also notice that certain days or events – like Christmas and the holiday season – can cause your grief to increase or return.
That’s why, for many people, December is the most difficult time of the year. Memories of past celebrations with family members or friends who are no longer here can magnify feelings of loss, and you may want to avoid reminders of celebration and togetherness.
If you experience this kind of grief that returns or increases – even years after your loved one died – understand that it is common and a normal aspect of the grieving process. Grief has a timing of its own, sometimes appearing – or disappearing – when we least expect it. This ebb and flow of feelings is very natural and is a sign of healthy coping.
Tips for coping:
- As the holidays approach, it can be helpful to share your concerns, feelings and apprehensions with someone. Let people know what is difficult for you, and accept offers of help.
- Think about how you will respond to others when they offer holiday wishes. You can simply say “Thank you” or “Best wishes to you”.
- Consider cutting back on your holiday traditions by not sending cards, or by enlisting the help of other people with meals and decorating.
- Take time to do something in memory of the person who died, and celebrate their life.
- If you find Christmas shopping upsetting, it may help to shop early, to shop by telephone, the Internet or catalogue, or to take along an understanding friend. You may also decide to go “shopless” this year and make a charitable donation in the name of the person who has died.
- Remind yourself that it’s okay to laugh as well as cry.
- Consider alternatives such as developing new traditions, going away, eating at restaurants or buying gift cards.
- Create a special decoration and give it a place of honour.
And perhaps most importantly, remember that you can always do things differently next year.