Grieving Through the Holiday Season

Christmas is one of the most challenging times of the year for those who have experienced the death of a loved one. Christmas is supposed to be a family time filled with joy and laughter. For people who are grieving, the merriment is hollow and empty. The Christmas carols and bright decorations are only painful reminders of the loss that they have experienced. Preparing yourself for some of the situations that may arise is a positive step towards getting through the holidays. The following is a list of suggestions that you might wish to incorporate in your holiday season.

Grieve in a way that feels right for you.
Some people grieve at Christmas by keeping extremely busy, so they have less time to think. Others grieve at Christmas by withdrawing or taking a winter vacation. Don’t be afraid to do whatever is most comfortable for you.

Acknowledge and accept the fact that the holidays will never be the same as they were.
Don’t let your “should’s” and other people’s expectations dictate the way you celebrate.

Seek out friends and family members who are sensitive and supportive.
Grieving at Christmas in a healthy way involves choosing who you most want to be with. Don’t spend time with people who create negative feelings or drain your energy.

Allow yourself to get off the Christmas treadmill.
If you are normally responsible for a large amount of things during the Christmas holidays, it may be best to delegate some of those responsibilities. While many may become lost in Christmas activities, this will not allow you the opportunity to heal appropriately from the traumatic loss that you have experienced.

Set limits.
It is often extremely important to set limits for yourself during the Christmas season when you are experiencing a loss. Manage your time appropriately. It is not necessary to handle everything all alone, or all at once. The first Christmas after someone dies, the last thing you need to worry about is sending cards or baking your traditional gingerbread cookies. Grieving at Christmas is about giving yourself more down time – and just doing things that are really important..

Accept the help of friends or family.
When a loved one dies, friends and family may not know what to do or say. Accept their help at Christmas, whether it’s cooking Christmas dinner at their place instead of yours. Grieving at Christmas involves letting others show their love and grief in different ways. This can be exceptionally difficult if you have always been the one to do most of the giving

Take time to Relax and Rest. Cut down on the hustle and bustle of Christmas.
Find ways to have a quiet time to relax and rest when you need to.

Avoid dietary extremes.
High sugar and alcohol consumption naturally induce emotional lows. Also, avoid overeating and under-sleeping. Eat a well-balanced diet which includes fruits and vegetables.

Be honest about your grief.
Denying the existence of your grief prevents you from moving forward. It may even spark an unexpected “melt-down”, especially during the added stress of the Christmas season. Don’t try and put on a happy face when you are crying inside. Giving yourself permission to cry will release the pent up emotions you have been trying to hold on to.

Let go of past regrets.
Release everything, including any guilt and anger. Forgive the medical staff for not being able to prevent your loved one’s death. Forgive friends and relatives who were not supportive enough, or who did or said something hurtful. Most of all forgive yourself for any perceived shortcomings or guilt around your loved one’s death.

Brighten the life of someone less fortunate at Christmas.
Connect with other people who are grieving, remember an ill or shut-in neighbor, be generous to the homeless or people struggling in impoverished countries. Reaching out to others in need can help you to put your own grief into perspective.

Accept the concept of new normalcy.
The onset of new traditions and expectations may seem daunting, but your previous normal can give rise to a new normal that shows you are moving forward in your grief.

Author's Bio: 

Grace Tallman, Bio
Passionately compassionate for people living with grief
Grace received her nursing degree from UWO and has been a practicing RN for many years. She has worked in a large variety of nursing specialties. Her extensive medical background allows her to understand illness and the dying process, and the very real physical manifestations of grief and depression. Her skills as a mental health nurse include training in cognitive therapy. This aids her in identifying her clients’ emotional wellness and to help them to reframe their thought patterns in order to promote their emotional healing.
As a hospital chaplain for 8 years, she compassionately and actively listened to deeply hear people’s stories of loss and pain. She has been honoured to be part of the intimate journey of life with many individuals and families who were facing death and serious illness.
Grace recently graduated with a Certificate in Grief and Bereavement from King’s College at UWO. This extensive training program prepared her to work with people during the difficult stages of dying and grief. With her medical background, chaplaincy and specific academic preparation in this field, Grace is well qualified to provide support to people on their grief journey.
As a facilitator Grace has abundant experience in providing a safe and therapeutic environment to assist people to process their grief in a group setting. She has also developed and facilitated several training programs to help groups of volunteers gain insight and skill in working with dying and bereaved individuals.