The holidays can be an especially tough challenge when you’re coping with grief. As everyone around you comes together to celebrate during a season of joy, you’re feeling the weight of a lost loved one. You’re probably anxious and frustrated that no one seems to understand what it’s like when you have a missing piece of your family.
But going through the holidays after a loved one has passed is inevitable and coming to terms with it is a huge step forward in your grieving process. Here are a few ways to approach these holidays with intention and care for your emotional well-being.
Know your triggers
The holidays are a time of rituals. Maybe your family makes a special night of lighting the Christmas tree, or you and a group of friends get together for a long weekend getaway to somewhere warm each year. Sometimes, having so much family around can create tension during any other winter.
But when you’re also dealing with a loved one’s passing, your anxiety is probably much higher. You’re feeling the gap that person left behind. Something as simple as negotiating who’s going to replace their usual role as the house pie chef can send your emotions over the edge.
If you know a specific ritual or event is coming up that’ll be particularly painful without them, make a plan for taking time to yourself. Practice deep breathing, self-care, and mindfulness. Knowing what emotions are likely to come up for you ahead of time will help you address them head-on.
Create new traditions
You’re probably feeling the hole left by your loved one even more as they miss out on your yearly traditions. Try not to dwell too much on the events they’re no longer there for. Instead, come up with new rituals to both honor their memory and make new ones with your family.
For example, you could light a memorial candle as you decorate your home. You could even make a new tradition where you cook all their favorite foods, and your family has fun reminiscing about their life. Just because they’re gone doesn’t mean they can’t be present.
Be vocal about your loss
Don’t shy away from saying how sad you are. During the holidays, you might feel an expectation to be perpetually cheerful. This isn’t healthy. Holding everything inside only makes your emotions affect you in a negative way. You’re probably not the only one around you feeling the pain of this loss.
Make time to talk about your grief and accept it into your lives. Allowing yourself to grief is an important step in the process. Try not to let expectations of happiness and silence dictate how you should experience your grief.
Focus on your friends and family
Just as it’s important to talk about your grief, it’s equally crucial to spend time on your living loved ones. Don’t neglect your other relationships that are still important to you. Make a special effort this holiday season to shower your loved ones with care and your presence to grow that bond even stronger.
Ask for help
At this time of year, some people feel like they can’t press the pause button. Dealing with work events, family get-togethers, and shopping for gifts will spread anyone thin. When you put coping with a new loss on top of that, it’s a recipe for tremendous emotional stress.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed between your grief and all the obligations of the holidays, consider seeking therapy. Having an outside, impartial person who can listen to your feelings and give advice can do wonders for approaching your stress and grieving process with intention and mindfulness.