The holidays are joyful; fun, family packed and filled with love. And whilst decorations are given centre stage and every Christmas doo somehow squeezed in, there's no similar accommodation for the grieving reality which many also face at this time of year.
When loved ones gather and traditions are fulfilled, the absence of a loved one can feel more noticeable than in day to day routine. Intertwined in this time of happy memories, can also come the resurfacing of grief, of loss and a forgotten void in your life which feels like it can never be refilled. When faced with these emotions, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. And whether though a desire to keep the magic alive for your kids or social pressure to fit in with the holiday joy, it can be a difficult time of year to seek help amid this suffering.
So whether facing your first holiday season without the comfort of your loved one, or just another year with annual painful reminders, we offer some helpful tips to work through grief in the holidays. Helping you survive, cope and even find comfort in remembering your loved one amid this difficult time of year.
Create Space for Mixed Emotions
Fully accepting the mix of emotions as they come is an important part of processing and coping in this time. There's no right or wrong way to live with grief during the holidays; whether that’s enjoying the welcome distractions and seeking comfort in familiar traditions, or feeling sad on days where there's pressure to be joyful. Either way, give yourself a guilt-free pass to enjoy the events in this season, or miss those you’d traditionally have attended.
2. Avoid Inviting Elephants into the Room
It's important not to create a taboo around these sad emotions, or mention of a lost presence. Because as well as honouring your own needs, the holidays can offer an important time of healing through honouring your loved ones no longer with you. Things like sharing memories or carrying on traditions can be a comforting way to remember a loved one in this time.
Even just opening up these conversations and acknowledging your family’s grief can be an important way to support each other in this time. Offering the opportunity to bring you closer together with family and friends, as well as provide an important outlet for children coping with this loss in the holidays too.
3. Create New Traditions
Where it feels fitting, starting new traditions can be another comforting way to honour a loved one. In creating new memories, it can allow you to live beyond your grief and continue to live fully as your loved one would want you to.
This could be new traditions of giving money to a charity important to their life, or volunteering to support others. Allowing you to honour your loved one, as well as your own need to remove yourself from familiar but painful traditions which remind you of their absence.
Whilst the holidays might never be the same, trying new things can instead help you ground yourself in gratitude for what and who you still have in life, rather than all you’ve lost through your loved ones death.
4. Be Flexible
Grief is a non-linear process, and it's important to give yourself a break when trying to process loss. Whether that's honouring sad emotions by taking some time to yourself or switching up how you usually celebrate the holidays, being flexible is central to getting through this period. It removes the pressure and allows space for all emotions, and is a kinder and more realistic approach than expecting yourself to power through it all.
5. Share & Seek Support
It can be tempting to hide behind a seasonal smile at this time of year. But in bottling up your emotions, you run the risk of an eventual overflow of overwhelm. Getting out of your own head and sharing your experience can also help manage the expectations of those around you. This can make you feel more comfortable in attending seasonal events, with the knowledge that your support network is aware and accomodating about the face you might be finding these usual traditions difficult.
At an already overwhelming time, this support can reduce the pressure you put on yourself to keep it together at all times. In opening up and allowing yourself to be vulnerable, you’ll also likely find that you're not alone in your struggles- ultimately paving the way for healing and key bonding moments from shared grief.
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