If you’re experiencing grief after the loss of a family member or friend, the holidays can be an especially tough time of the year. Here are 12 suggestions for making the season a little bit brighter and helping you prepare for some of the feeling that grief might bring this year.
Day One: Write a List
Shopping, parties, baking, wrapping, sending cards…it can all catch up with you. Looking at your calendar, make a list of all the things you’re planning to do this season, then cross out all the things you don’t NEED to do. The crossed-out items then become optional. People will understand if you’re not up for a full schedule this year.
Day Two: Make a Memorial Display
Include in your holiday decorations a special area that features framed pictures (even better if they’re holiday pictures) of your absent friend or family member. When you host holiday gatherings, encourage guests to a bring picture of someone they would like to remember. This is a great way to help you and others feel less isolated in grief.
Day Three: Buy a Gift
While doing your holiday shopping, buy a gift for your lost friend or family member. Find something that they would’ve liked or something that reflects their personality and passions. Then, donate that gift to someone in need. Not only are you making someone else’s holiday brighter, but your helping to carry on your loved one’s legacy.
Day Four: Rest
Get some good sleep. Ideally 7+ hours per night. If thoughts of grief make falling or staying asleep difficult at night, do your best to plan some afternoon rest-time in your schedule (there’s no shame in naps). Many physical and psychological benefits of getting enough sleep are well documented and include improved mood, better heart health, and fewer headaches.
Day Five: Talk About Them
Many times people you see at social events will avoid bringing up your lost friend or family member. Generally this is not because they want to forget or ignore the person who died, but rather are afraid of upsetting you . If you talk about your loved one first, it lets others know that you’re okay with talking about your loss, and that they can talk about it too.
Day Six: Record Holiday Memories
We all know that over time memories start to fade. While the holiday memories of your lost family member or friend are still vivid in your mind, set aside some time to write them down. If a holiday memory strikes you unexpectedly make a reminder note in your phone or on a piece of paper to write it down later. This way you can reflect on those memories for years to come.
Day Seven: Plan a Memorial Activity
Holiday celebrations are steeped in tradition and ceremony. For your holiday gathering, plan a memorial activity in which everyone can participate. This could be as simple as lighting a candle and sharing a prayer, or can be as involved as making personalized memorial tree ornaments. Traditions like these can be a way to actively share and support each other.
Day Eight: Consider What You’ll Miss
This is a tough one. Take some time to consider the moments you’ll miss your lost friend or family member the most. Is there a special holiday tradition of which they were an integral part? If you think of these specific moments in private, you’ll likely be better prepared for those moments when they happen. But remember, it’s okay to get emotional when they do.
Day Nine: Prepare for Questions
Your friends and family are genuinely concerned about how you are doing. Prepare specific answers for questions like, “how are you holding up,” and “is there anything I can do to help?” Consider how your answers will be different if you’re asked by an acquaintance, relative, or best friend. Being ready will help you avoid having to say that things are “fine.”
Day 10: Cry
You will not ruin Christmas if you cry. Grief carries with it a lot of emotion and the holidays are meant to be an emotional time of year—go ahead, cry. Give other people permission to cry too. Many times the best support you can give a crying person is just a hug and a few words to let them know it’s okay to cry. What would those words be for you?
Day Eleven: Give and Receive Hugs
Meaningful touch is an essential part of human communication. Support can be expressed and received through a pat on the shoulder, holding a hand, or embracing. The physical and psychological benefits of touch are well documented and simple contact can, in a very real way, remind others that they’re not alone. Be open to respectful, meaningful touch.
Day Twelve: Feel Gratitude
Find joy in the things for which you’re thankful. Feeling happy does not mean you don’t miss your friend or family member, and is nothing to feel guilty about. It’s likely that the person you lost would actually prefer you be happy rather than spending the holiday in constant grief for them. If you have a moment of gratitude and joy, please enjoy it. You deserve it.
From Mueller Memorial Funeral Home, we truly wish you a happy holiday.