Facing the Holidays after the Death of a Loved One

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By Lucille Rosetti from TheBereaved.org

The holidays are special times of the year when families come together to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company. But when you’re mourning the loss of a loved one, holidays are painful. It seems like everyone around you is making merry, but you just can’t stomach the thought of joining in the revelry. In fact, memories of your deceased loved one can make the holiday season almost unbearable. Here are some ways you can cope with the loss of your loved one while still finding a way to celebrate the holidays.

Plan how you want to celebrate the holidays now that your loved one is gone. Decide if you want to avoid holiday gatherings or be surrounded by family and friends. It’s normal to want to be alone instead of attending a noisy, crowded holiday party. But if you use that alone time to wallow in your grief, you’ll end up feeling even more miserable. Decide what you can and cannot handle. Then speak with your family and close friends about your plans.

Consider changing some of your family traditions. Slightly changing these traditions can help make your loved one’s absence less poignant. For example, if your family has always celebrated the holidays at your house, ask a family member if you can have the dinner at their home instead. And if you have always opened presents on Christmas Day, why not open them on Christmas Eve?

Maybe it doesn’t feel right to have a Christmas tree now that your loved one is gone. It’s important to do what’s right for you and your family. These small changes may help you deal with the grief.

Helping others less fortunate can help you deal with your sadness during the holidays. Consider volunteering at a soup kitchen, organizing a toy drive for kids or participating in some other holiday charity work. Seeing the joy you bring to others can help you feel less depressed and alone.

Find ways to commemorate the life of the loved one who died. Light a candle during a holiday dinner, place an ornament that symbolizes your loved one on the Christmas tree or do some other symbolic gesture. It will help you celebrate the holidays with your surviving family members while still honoring the memory of the one who passed away.

If you decide to be alone during the holiday, avoid sinking into negative thoughts. And if you find yourself sinking into despair, reach out to family and friends. Go over to a friend or family member’s house. Call them on the phone so you can receive the support you need. Don’t feel like you will cast a pall over the party because you’re feeling down and in no mood to celebrate. The people that truly love you won’t care. They’ll only want to support you, even if you aren’t in the holiday spirit.

Take the time to participate in old-fashioned holiday activities. These types of activities can relieve stress and bring joy to your life. Curl up by the fireplace with a good book. Snuggle with your pet and watch the snow fall outside. Drive around the neighborhood and admire holidays lights and decorations. Put on your pajamas and watch your favorite classic holiday movies. Even something as simple as participating in an ugly holiday sweater contest can bring a smile to your face.

When a loved one dies, the holidays can be especially difficult. Grief over their absence makes the thought of celebrating without them seem impossible.

The important thing to remember is that it’s okay to grieve during the holidays. Seek the loving support of family and friends to deal with the sadness. Take time for yourself, honor the memory of your loved one, get involved in helping others and adjust your holiday traditions. Taking these small steps might make the holidays easier to face–even though a special someone isn’t by your side.

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