The holiday season can be a time of joy and reunion for many, but for others it can be emotionally difficult. The loss of a loved one can cause the holidays to evoke sadness, loneliness and emptiness.
“Holidays can be stressful and adding the loss of a loved one can make it worse,” Thomas Pepler, Director of NARMC Hospice of the Hills and Home Health services, said. “The important thing to remember is that you are not alone. After losing someone close to you, you may not feel like celebrating. Planning ahead can help ease the pain and prepare you to face the holiday season.”
Here are some tips on surviving the holidays offered by NARMC Hospice and Home Health:
Decide what is best for you- Set limits for yourself and say no if you need to. Do only as much as you can manage emotionally and physically. Do not be afraid to ask for help and share your feelings with others. Decide whether you want to stick to traditions or create new ones. If you feel up to holiday shopping, pick a time where stores are not crowded, such as when they first open. If the task of shopping feels like too much, try online shopping. There is no right or wrong answer.
Take care of yourself- Find time to exercise. It can reduce stress and increase your sense of well-being. A balanced diet can provide the strength and energy your body needs. The holidays are full of potlucks and unhealthy treats. Try to eat healthy when you can. Do not partake in excessive use of drugs or alcohol. Get plenty of rest. Your body will need to be charged to make it through each day. Take time to rest when you can. Remember that it is okay to ask for help if you feel like you need it. Talking to a friend or spiritual advisor can be helpful.
It is okay to feel- No matter what you feel---happiness or sadness--- allow yourself to have emotions. Accept that there are times that you will feel sad, depressed and anxious. At other times, you may even feel good and have the urge to laugh. Give yourself permission to have fun and create new memories. When it is time to cry, let it out. You don’t have to hold it in. Crying has a similar effect on the body as exercise because it reduces stress and calms anxiety.
Lower expectations- You do not have to do it all. You can accept every holiday invitation if you want or you can pick a few parties to attend. You can do the holiday shopping or let someone help you. You can stick to your holiday traditions or you can try something new. Take some time to think about what you want this year and then stick to that plan. If you try something new and it doesn’t seem to work, you can try something new next time.
Sometimes the holiday season is when you feel your grief the most. To ease your grief, you may choose to honor your loved one during your holiday celebrations. Here are ten ways to honor your loved one this holiday season:
Cook their favorite dish and serve at your holiday get-togethers.
Donate to a charity or cause that they loved.
Buy or make a new ornament that reminds you of your loved one each year.
Watch your loved one’s favorite holiday movie.
Take a road trip and spend the holidays in your loved one’s favorite location.
Create a holiday playlist of songs your loved one would have liked.
Purchase a gift with your loved one in mind and give it to someone less fortunate in memory of your loved one.
Volunteer with a charity or service organization in memory of your loved one.
NARMC hopes you have a positive holiday season!