Lifechanger and Psychotherapist
Joanne Diaz-Koegl says when we are grieving, the jolly holidays can be a
painful reminder of the joy and warmth, love and excitement we used to share at
this time of year, before he or she was gone.
The holidays still
rush on; others make plans, unaware of our broken hearts. Friends go out of
their way to include us in their holiday cheer, but few can understand how numb
we really are. There are no special privileges or special parking places for
those with pain. And watching the celebration of others, only leaves us feeling
But grieving over
the loss of a loved one is a necessary and natural process. There is no right
or wrong way to do it, and no two people do it the same. Time and balance are
important components. The first few years are usually the most difficult, but
even years later, the holidays may never again mean what they used to.
Tradition plays a
special role in celebrating so many moments between Thanksgiving and New
Year's. Traditional times you have shared underscore the significance of the
loss… ”Dad always hung Christmas lights while mom cooked Thanksgiving dinner.”
The full sense of
loss never occurs all at once. The onset of the holiday season often makes us
realize how much our lives have been changed by the loss. Perhaps your major
need is to acknowledge and work to survive the naturalness of the “holiday
grief.” The holidays can become a time of reflection and peace, a time to
cherish the gift your loved one has been -- and continues to be -- in the life
of your family.
While there are no
simple guidelines that will make it easy to cope with grief during the holiday
season, try these tips to help make your personal experience more tolerable:
Be Patient and
Plan ahead so you
are not overwhelmed by responsibilities at the last moment. When you are
grieving, it is difficult to make decisions, so make lists. Prioritize things.
Decide what is important to you this holiday season, and scratch the rest off
of the list for this year. You can always add things back in the years to come.
Listen to your
heart and acknowledge your limits. Become aware of your needs and express them
to family and friends with whom you plan to spend the holidays.
to share their feelings, too, so that everyone affected by the death of your
loved one has an opportunity to express his or her wishes about holiday plans.
Remember it is
okay to say no. You don’t have to accept every invitation that comes your way.
Do what you can this holiday season, and let it be sufficient. Don’t try to
tackle all the decorations, just decorate a small area. There is nothing wrong
yourself the pleasures of good food and companionship out of sense of
obligation to the deceased. Remember that your loved one would want to see you
smiling, happy, and surrounded by those you hold dear.
When grief and
loss overwhelm us at the holidays, we are tempted to scrap the whole thing, to
do absolutely nothing. But you can keep traditions alive in ways that make
sense, given your new reality. If the fact that you are not buying a gift for
your departed loved one this year saddens you, buy a simple gift that you know
he or she would have liked and give it to someone who otherwise would not have
a gift. If you are alone this year as a result of your loss, find a way to
share a part of the holidays with others. Visit a soup kitchen or shelter and
be of service to someone who has no one.
Tears and Laughter
Allow the tears to
come, but look for joy amid the pain. As you unpack and sift through holiday
decorations, understand that along with warm, loving memories, you will be also
be unpacking some heartache. Don’t deny yourself the gift of healing tears. You
may decide you can not bring yourself to see the previous ornaments you shared and
may purchase new ones.
Be patient and
know that every process, even grief, has an ending. People want us to get over
the loss, and though we will never fully get over our loss, we can find a place
of acceptance. We hurt deeply because we were blessed to have the capacity to
love that way. In fact, I don’t think I will ever want to get over it. There is
a difference between unresolved grief and remembering. Your life, my life, will
not be the same again, but it can be good again as we enter yet another new
phase of life. To acknowledge and move toward these feelings is healthier than
attempting to repress or deny them.
let anyone take away your grief during the holidays. Try to love yourself and
allow yourself to be embraced by caring, compassionate people.