For some, the holiday season is the best time of the year, with lots of gatherings, festive music, sparkly lights, joyful memories, and good cheer. But for those who have lost a loved one, the holiday months can feel especially overwhelming and difficult.
Bereavement occurs when someone close to us has died, a state of being deprived of something that is precious to us. The word comes from Old English bereafian, meaning to deprive, to seize violently, to plunder, to rob. Grief is our reaction and the feelings that we experience in response to losing someone whom we deeply care about. As painful and debilitating as it can feel, grief is a normal and healthy response to loss. Grief is hard during any season, but for many, grief is felt more intensely during the holidays.
Acknowledge your grief. It’s ok to feel sad during the holidays. You don’t have to bottle up your feelings and pretend you don’t feel the way that you do. Crying is healthy. Whether you cry when you’re by yourself or with others, let it happen.
Tolerate your limits. Grief can leave you feeling drained and fatigued. Listen to your body, and don’t expect yourself to be at your peak during the holiday season. Take breaks when you need them. Rest.
Talk about your loved one. Many people find comfort in keeping the memory of their loved one alive. Share stories about your lost loved one with the people. Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after one dies. Instead of blocking those memories, try sharing them with your family and friends.
Keep their spirit alive. Decorate in their favorite colors. Play their favorite holiday songs. Make their favorite dishes. Say a prayer for them. Make memorial ornaments. Light a candle in their memory. Find whatever way suits you best to include your loved one in your holiday traditions going forward.
Take things one day at a time. Don’t try to rush the process. Some days will be better than others and that’s ok. Acknowledge how you feel and lean on your support system.
Take care of yourself. When people grieve, they sometimes start to unintentionally neglect their physical and emotional needs. Eat regular, healthy meals, get rest, and find ways to manage your stress.
Do what feels right for you. The holiday might look different when you’re grieving and that’s ok. Maybe you need some time to yourself, or maybe it’s comforting to be around others. Do what feels right to YOU. How you feel about the holidays themselves might change from day to day. It’s ok to cancel plans, change traditions, or even leave a gathering early if it feels overwhelming.
Acknowledge their loss. It’s ok to talk about what has happened. Avoid phrases like “at least” or “it was for the best.”
Listen. Sometimes the best thing you can do for someone who is grieving is just listen. Let them talk about their loved one and their grief. Avoid giving advice or telling them how they should feel.
Offer practical help. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help. Even things like running errands, cooking a meal, or just sitting with them can be helpful. The holidays can be particularly busy and overwhelming. Maybe you could help them make a Christmas list, pick up some things from the busy store, so they don’t have to, or offer to watch their kids for a couple of hours so they can take a break.
Let them know you care. Sometimes it is most helpful just to let them know that you care and that you’re here for them in whatever way they need you to be.
If you or someone you know has lost a loved one and are experiencing grief this holiday season, we hope you will find something in this post to lift even a tiny bit of the burden you carry.
Please know that you are never alone. If you need help, reach out to one of the many caring and compassionate professionals in Ashland County.
If you or someone you know is having a hard time and experiencing suicidal thoughts, please do not hesitate to call the local 24/7 hotline at 419/289-6111 or text 4HOPE to 741741 for support.
You can reach out to us for more information at the Mental Health & Recovery Board of Ashland County at 419/281-3139 or find resources at ashlandmhrb.org
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