How to Survive the Holidays when Grieving
Christmas is a wonderful time of the year, or is it? New Years is right around the corner. For those who are suffering, you may want to avoid it. You may feel like you are going through the motions, wish you could wake up after the Holiday and not participate in the merriment.
We typically think of December as an exciting time with Christmas and New Year, and there are holiday parties, memories, and traditions made, shopping for gifts, and spending time with loved ones. But maybe you don’t feel joy this Christmas season; perhaps you are in the season of suffering. Grief and suffering go hand in hand, and we all go through times of pain, trial, and suffering, and during the Christmas season, these feelings can be magnified.
Are you facing a time of grief this season? Perhaps you have lost a loved one, or Christmas brings up memories of someone lost long ago; maybe you have recently lost a job or are facing difficult family issues.
Do you feel the pressure of spreading holiday cheer when what you think is the suffering that does not cease when the Holiday comes around? If you are consumed by grief or facing a difficult time this Christmas, you are not alone.
I have faced several Christmas’s where the pain of grief felt insurmountable. But I eventually learned to lean into it and find different ways to manage those feelings and find my way back to that wonderful time of the year.
The first thing I did was remind myself that the meaning of Christmas is not about the gifts or the parties but rather the most treasured gift, the birth of Jesus was born on Christmas and came so that we may have eternal life.
I learned that even in pain, I have things to be grateful for and focused on what I have. Writing down all my blessings provided me with a visual reminder that even now brings a smile as I continue to add more blessings to my ever-growing list. This simple activity can help refocus your mind on positives.
With all the parties and gatherings, keep in mind, holidays do not have to be perfect, and it is okay to spend them how you want. Put yourself first, though others may have good intentions and try to tell you what they think you should do, it is okay to do what is best for you to manage through the Holiday. If you want to leave a party early, do it. If you do not feel like attending a gathering, then do not go. You are the best to know what your limitations are, follow your lead.
With the stress of the holidays, it is essential to be kind to yourself. Enjoy things that help you to relax (a hot bath, a good book, or a prayer walk). Finding time just for eating healthy and exercising goes far in your emotional wellbeing.
Be honest to know it will be hard, especially when it comes to tradition. When you are suffering, traditions shared with that lost loved one is not easy because it ties you to that person(s) you shared them with, which can add to your grief. Deciding what to do can be a hard, do you ignore it, go through the motions, or do you find new traditions? For me, I found that finding a new tradition worked best for me, but for each person, the answer will be different. One suggestion is keeping one or two traditions and starting a new one.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help; you may feel alone, but you’re not. Perhaps you do not have close friends or family, but we all live in a community where there are groups, churches, and services that are there to help you. If you have a therapist or coach, reach out to them. If you do have family and friends, let them help you with the overwhelming things (decorating, hosting, shopping).
Allow yourself to feel, whatever you are facing, there will be moments of tears, but do not let that take all of your joy.
It does not negate your loss, but it does allow you some comfort. I found the simple things put a smile on my face, baking cookies with friends, watching the joy on my children’s faces as they opened their gifts, and giving to others. Nothing feels better than to help others, perhaps pay for the coffee of the person behind you, take treats to the elderly these not only bring joy to others but makes your heart feel good.
Lastly turn to God, He truly is the reason for the season. Trust Him to help you through your suffering and as you grow closer to Him you will have the peace that only He can provide.
“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”.