Sunday, November 11, 2012

Grief and the Holidays Survival Guide

The holiday season is upon us and for those grieving the loss of a loved one...this normally festive time can be a source of heartache and pain.  Today, I am sharing some holiday management tips for anyone grieving the loss of someone they love this holiday season.  These tips come from The Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation, a wonderful organization that helps the included.  Please check out their site and programs, especially Camp Widow.  I attended Camp Widow last spring and it was a wonderful healing experience for me.

  1. Give yourself permission to feel how you feel about a particular holiday, or the holidays in general. Mixed feelings are normal may find yourself okay one day and not okay the next. Try to go with the emotional flow.
  2. Don't be afraid to consider doing something totally different for this year or one for one particular holiday. You are living with changes to your holidays that you didn't choose...why not make some you do choose?
  3. Feel free to add tears to any recipe. Really. Sometimes a good cry is just what you need when smelling, cooking, or eating your loved ones favorite dish. A change of scenery sometimes makes a difference. If you are feeling blue, plan an outing that has nothing to do with holiday cheer just for a respite from the holiday buzz.
  4. Identify what your grief triggers are in regards to the holidays. It is easy to say, "Everything!"...but what are they exactly? Family time? Traditions? Lights? Certain foods? The more information you are armed with the better....knowing is so much better than NOT knowing where your "grief bruises" are located!
  5. Give yourself permission freely: to change things, to keep them the same, to stay home, to go out, to skip a portion of an event or to skip the whole thing...allow yourself to consider what you need, then give yourself the permission to DO it...or not do it....whichever works!
  6. Remember that there is no such thing as the "perfect" holiday. No matter what the commercials on TV tell you. It may appear that everyone else has it all, but we are all just humans doing the best we can. This is not meant to minimize the loss you feel, but rather to point out that romanticizing the holiday season is a very easy trap to fall into.
  7. Revel in small comforts. Allow yourself to get momentarily lost in a cup of hot chocolate, a hilarious moment, or a movie you love. Even small doses of calm will improve your overall ability to move through the holiday season.
  8. Make plans. Watch a movie at home or go to the park or take a walk or have lunch with a friend...making even a small plan helps you take some charge of your days.
  9. Take the holidays one at a time. Try not to lump them together. Rather than think of the long lead up to the end of the year, try taking it just one day at a time.
  10. Practice gratitude…especially when you don't feel like it. Find just one thing every day that makes your heart swell.
  11. Give your feelings about the holiday season room; space to just be what they are without trying to change them.
  12. Get outside. Literally. Take a walk, get out of the house, go for a drive....when you feel overwhelmed by the idea of not spending this holiday with your loved one a change of scenery may be a balm for your aching heart.
  13. What is your plan for the holiday dinner? Maybe you can have a meal with other friends and neighbors who don't have a place to go for the holiday. Your invitation might be totally make their day!
  14. Accept love, time, and invitations from friends who lift you up. Community matters.
  15. Think of ways to include your loved ones memory in your holiday celebration. Whether you cook their favorite pie or ask family members to share something about your loved one for which they are grateful...including someone you miss, in even a small way, acknowledges the gift they have been in your life. That gift is never lose the love.
  16. Plan an escape route. You may need a minute during a holiday celebration to let the tears fall. Just like on a plane...identify your nearest exit and be prepared to use it if needed! Taking a short break sometimes makes all the difference.
  17. The day before a holiday can sometimes be harder than the day itself! Knowing that families everywhere are preparing to share the day with loved ones, and imagining the joy of holidays past can lead to a tearful day for those missing a person they love so much. Grab onto the memories and remind yourself of why they are precious to you. Imagine a funny moment with your loved one and replay it as many times as needed. You can do this!
  18. Try not to let what you don't have rob you of the joy you get from what you DO have. Make a memory today that you will cherish tomorrow. Remember that so often when we lose someone we grieve the small, everyday things...don't let those slip through your fingers today. Celebrate your love by loving.
  19. Don't be surprised if you have a "grief hangover" the day after a holiday. Emotional days can take a toll physically. Get outside, do some good self-care, and give yourself a break the day after!
  20. Holiday decorations are going up all over the place! So, create a safe place in your home. Decorate or don't decorate; buy a candle you love; let the kids decorate however they like; create a decor free spot where you can retreat; make your space, YOUR space. When you are traveling through your day in an environment you can't control...know that you are going to return to the safe space you've created. Now, go make your safe haven!
  21. Allow yourself to have something you love. Doesn't have to be a big deal, but taking a fun time out will improve your coping stamina.
  22. Holidays are often accompanied by a sense of obligation. In your past life maybe you never missed Aunt Mae's holiday bash, you put up decorations on a specific weekend, and you had your gifts purchased and wrapped by a certain this new life, give yourself permission to NOT do it ALL. Choose one thing that you will commit to showing up for, and let the rest be optional. Missing the party one time doesn't mean you are never going back.
  23. Go ahead be a Grinch. Yep, stomp your feet, shake your fist, and shout something inappropriate out loud. Sometimes you just have to embrace your inner green goblin to release some holiday tension!
  24. Gather. Gather your friends, gather your family, gather your thoughts, gather candles, gather flowers, gather some widowed peeps...gather around you what fills your soul. Fill up, so you have fuel for the journey ahead.
  25. Say YES sometimes. Struggling with the holidays may cause the desire to hibernate all season long. Some days that is just fine, other days saying yes to an invitation may be just what you need to lift your spirits. Go ahead say yes.
  26. Take a moment during the holiday fray to focus on the person you are missing's LIFE, and what they added to yours. Really celebrate that for a focused moment. It can be so easy to get swallowed up by our loved ones death, that we lose track of how they lived their life. Cheers to your amazing person!
  27. Weekends can be especially hard during the holiday season as "everyone" seems to be busy with family things, parties, and general merriment. Make a plan for the weekend, even if the plan is to stay in. Consciously choosing what you are doing makes a difference...and if you don't want to stay in...get out! Take a drive, go to a park, have lunch with a any case the choice is yours.
  28. Go small. If you are trying to regain some holiday spirit or just muster enough for the kids, start small. Less lights, smaller tree, ten cards instead of fifty, Hanukkah gifts for only the nearest and get the idea. You don't have to do it all, you can decide to do some.
  29. Go ahead and count the days. When you think of all you have already made it can do 30ish more days! Consider it a different kind of count down
  30. Go Charlie Brown. Simple is beautiful.
  31. Buy yourself a gift your loved one would have delighted in giving you...something just for you.
  32. Share a memory of your loved one during the holidays. Out loud. With someone who loves them too.
  33. Take a break. Having a hard time with a holiday task? Walk away for a minute or an hour and then try again. No one says you have to get anything done all at once!
  34. Drink water, eat well...give your body what it needs to help weather the emotional days. Often easier said than done, but try to keep yourself as physically well as possible!
  35. Try really hard not to imagine that everyone around you is having the holiday season of their dreams. In so many ways we are all just making our way the best we can...even those who 'appear' to have everything...or those who aren't grieving the loss of someone they love. Imagine hope.
  36. These are just a few ways we have found to make the holiday season a little easier for those missing someone they love so much. For more tips, and to find a community of support for anyone grieving a loss, please visit The Soaring Spirits Loss Foundation.

Hope Matters.


No comments: