Holidays can be a difficult time for people that have had a loss. There is no right or wrong way to handle the holidays. Some may wish to follow family traditions, while others may choose to change. When we are already experiencing the great stress of bereavement, the additional strains of the holidays can create unbearable pressure. The key to coping with grief during the holidays is to find the way that is right for you.
Here are some ways you can prepare in advance:
Plan for any approaching holidays.
Be aware that this might be a difficult time for you. The additional stress may affect you emotionally, cognitively, and physically; this is a normal reaction. It is helpful to be as prepared as possible for these feelings.
Recognize that holidays won’t be the same.
It is likely impossible to keep everything the same as it was, so try to be kind with your expectations about what is possible. Doing things a bit differently can acknowledge the change while preserving continuity with the past.
Be careful not to isolate yourself.
It’s important to take time for yourself while staying open to the support of family and friends.
The holidays may affect other family members or close friends.
Talk over your plans. Respect their choices and needs, and compromise if necessary.
Avoid additional stress.
Decide what you really want to do, and what can be avoided.
When coping with grief during the holidays, it is important to remember that not everyone grieves the same way or finds comfort in the same things. Many families have found comfort in the following suggestions:
Remember the deceased: make a holiday donation to a charitable organization in their memory. Share photos and memories. Include your baby in conversations and celebrations.
Take care of yourself: Plan relaxation time; do things to help you relax (warm baths, watch movies, read, play games, exercise). Plan to be with the people that you enjoy. Get plenty of sleep and watch what you eat. Avoid excessive alcohol. Keep a diary or journal of feelings, and how you and your family are coping.
Limit social gatherings: choose only to attend the ones that give you more comfort than stress. Be willing to leave a party or function early if you are uncomfortable.
Do something for others: volunteer at a soup kitchen; ask someone who is alone to share the day with your family; provide help to a need family; volunteer in a hospital. Helping others may help you feel better.