Grieving the loss of a loved one is a challenge at any time, but the holiday season can magnify your sense of loss. Family gatherings and seasonal events can be painful reminders of the loss. At the same time, they can also be comforting rituals where you spend time with family and friends, focusing on good memories and trying to recapture your sense of joy.
If you are mourning a loss of a loved one, here are some important things to keep in mind.
• Only do what feels right. Don’t feel obligated to participate in anything. It is up to you to decide which activities you can handle.
• Accept your feelings, whatever they may be. Everyone takes his or her own path in grief. However you feel, accept it without judging yourself or others.
• Call on your family and friends. Talk about your emotions. Be honest about how you’d like to do things this year. Take a friend to events for support and create an “escape plan” together, in case you need to bow out quickly.
• Plan ahead. New activities might be easier, but familiar traditions might be comforting as well—do what feels best for you.
• Do something different. Acknowledge that things have changed. Plan new activities, especially the first year after the loss. Many families return to their usual routines and rituals after the first year, but some enjoy incorporating their new experiences permanently.
• Scale back. Create realistic expectations for yourself and others, but above all, be gentle with yourself.
• Acknowledge those who have passed on. It can be helpful to participate in a related holiday ritual in his or her memory. Some ideas: lighting candles for them, talking about them, buying children’s toys or books to donate in their name.
• Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt.
• Skip it. If you feel that it will be too much for you and you’d like to simply opt out of participation in a holiday, let family and friends know. But plan alternative comforting activities for yourself.
• Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional.
Source: Newsbriefs, November-December 2019
Our church is hosting an ecumenical Blue Christmas service on Sunday, December 15, at 7 pm. I invite you to participate in this meaningful way to acknowledge your loss and to find comfort in worshiping with others.
I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas and New Year celebration! My family (all three children and 7 grandchildren) will be in Costa Rica from December 15 – January 7 celebrating not only the holidays, but Deuane and my 50th wedding anniversary on January 10! We will return with wonderful pictures and memories to share! See you next year!
Your Parish Nurse,
Mary Ann Martin, RN, BAS, FCN