Holidays and special days can be challenging, even during the best of circumstances. They can stir up memories of the past, evoke powerful feelings, and lead us to compare our current life situation to the past or to an idealized version of life.
Dealing with a holiday or special day after the death or loss of a loved one can become even more difficult after the first year. Customary routines are often ended, never to be repeated in quite the same way. Holidays can again be significant, meaningful, and enjoyable – but, will be different.
Here are some tips:
• Get plenty of rest.
• Set reasonable expectations for yourself. Don’t try to do everything and see everyone.
• Be realistic about what can and cannot be done.
• Schedule brief breaks to be alone.
• Try to tell those around you what you really need so they will know how to help you. Ask for their understanding if you withdraw from an activity that doesn’t feel like a good idea to you.
• Acknowledge to yourself that the occasion may be painful at times.
• Let yourself feel whatever you feel.
• Express feelings in a way that is not hurtful.
• Don’t be afraid to rethink traditions. Keep in mind that traditions, even long standing ones can be changed and can be resumed.
• Limit your time – grief is emotionally and physically exhausting.
• Take time for yourself for relaxation and remembrance.
• Honor the memory of a loved one – give a gift or donation in his or her name, light a candle, display pictures, or share favorite stories with supportive people.
• Discuss ahead of time with family and/or friends what each person can do to make this time special. Share in responsibility and see what can be eliminated or included to keep it less stressful.
• If celebrating does not feel right, try volunteering this year.
• If there is a particular event that you are not looking forward to, discuss it with other participants ahead of time. What (if anything) can be done to change it?
• Remember, it is okay to laugh and enjoy yourself.
• If you want or need to, leave an event early.
• Make a shopping list ahead of time and shop on a day that is good for you.
• Propose a toast to your loved one and invite people to share memories.
• Give yourself permission to cut back on holiday decorations, preparations, and gift giving.