When someone has lost a loved one, holidays often magnify the feelings of grief; especially if this is the first holiday season since the loss. Memories of good times, togetherness and traditional gatherings are reminders of their loss. It can also be very painful for people who are grieving to watch others who are celebrating when sorrow makes participating in festivities overwhelming.
The first step in coping with grief at the holidays is to acknowledge that the season will be difficult and then to prepare in advance by making plans and gathering support. Here are a few ways you can begin:
- Acknowledge that the holidays will be different and that your pain will be triggered by all the festivities. Some people find that simply accepting that the holidays will be hard provides the strength to cope.
- Decide in advance what events or engagements you want to attend and which ones you will eliminate. Share your plans with family and friends and let them know of intended changes in your holiday routine.
- Surround yourself with people who care about you and support you. The holidays may be difficult but there will also be opportunities for joy.
- Consider engaging friends and family in a new outing or activity, or create a new tradition.
- Take care of yourself. Allow some time for solitude, reminiscing and grieving, but balance that time with activities that include others.
Remember, there is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays. For some, support groups can help by teaching specific coping skills and providing opportunities for people suffering a loss to share feelings with others who are also grieving. Merrimack Valley Hospice offers several bereavement support groups during the holiday season. All support groups are offered at convenient locations in and around the Merrimack Valley, are free of charge and open to the public. Click here for a list of support groups available.