Holidays can be stressful for any of us, but for those who have experienced the death of someone close, this can be an especially difficult time of year. Holiday celebrations go hand in hand with traditions – things we do each year with the people we love. When those people aren’t there to celebrate with us, it’s a deep reminder of how things have changed.
Feeling grief isn’t a bad thing. It’s a measure of how fortunate we are to have loved someone so much. But there are steps we can take to help prepare for grief during the holiday season.
We reached out to Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a renowned grief counselor and Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition for some advice. Here are five tips he offers to help with healing during the holiday season.
Talk About Your Grief
During the holiday season, don’t be afraid to express your feelings of grief. Ignoring your grief won’t make the pain go away and talking about it openly often makes you feel better. Find caring friends and relatives who will listen—without judging you. They will help make you feel understood.
Be With Supportive, Comforting People
Identify those friends and relatives who understand that the holiday season can increase your sense of loss and who will allow you to talk openly about your feelings. Find those persons who encourage you to be yourself and accept your feelings—both happy and sad.
Plan Ahead for Family Gatherings
Decide which family traditions you want to continue and which new ones you would like to begin. Structure your holiday time. This will help you anticipate activities, rather than just reacting to whatever happens. Getting caught off guard can create feelings of panic, fear, and anxiety during the time of the year when your feelings of grief are already heightened. As you make your plans, however, leave room to change them if you feel it is appropriate.
Do What Is Right for You During the Holidays
Well-meaning friends and family often try to prescribe what is good for you during the holidays. Instead of going along with their plans, focus on what you want to do. Discuss your wishes with a caring, trusted friend. Talking about these wishes will help you clarify what it is you want. As you become aware of your needs, share them with your friends and family.
Embrace Your Treasure of Memories
Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. And holidays always make you think about times past. Instead of ignoring these memories, share them with your family and friends. Keep in mind that memories are tinged with both happiness and sadness. If your memories bring laughter, smile. If your memories bring sadness, then it’s all right to cry. Memories that were made in love—no one can ever take them away from you.