11 Nov Navigating the Holidays


It’s that time of year.  And I know that many of you are already dreading the upcoming  holiday season and that you are experiencing tremendous  anxiety and stress related to the fact that it is difficult to navigate something that can never be the same again.

Understanding of the following is key.  Even though it does not seem possible or feel like it right now, most people do eventually enjoy holidays and special days again, just in a new and different way.  Grieving Forward requires an understanding of the fact that the anticipation of these days usually produces more anxiety and unrest than the actual day itself does.  So how do we live through these days?  With information and a plan—and we have to make the choice to do so.  And sometimes we have to make this choice over and over again… This too is part of the hard emotional work of grief.

It’s important to remember:

  • You don’t need to accept every invitation.
  • It’s okay to decide not to send out as many Christmas cards or not to send out any Christmas cards at all.
  • It’s okay not to do as much shopping.
  • It’s okay not to decorate as much or not to decorate at all.  (Unless you have young children or teenagers who’s feelings you need to consider—which may result in decorating even if you really don’t feel like it.)
  • It’s okay not to want to cook.

Develop a plan for the day.  If you have children involve them in the planning.  Keep in mind that involving them may require compromise on your part.  (Sometimes we have to remind ourselves that we are not the only one who is grieving.)  Communicate and establish reasonable expectations in order to avoid unmet expectations.  Because unmet expectations cause relationship problems—and you don’t need any more to deal with right now.  Keep in mind too that what you do the first year after the death may not be what you decide to do the second or third year for that matter.  Establishing new traditions that work for you and your family usually takes a few times of trying out different ideas before one clicks.  In addition, each year you will be in a different place as far as your healing and this will also impact your decisions.

Examples of changes that you can make:

  • Change where you have the meal.  It can be someone else’s turn to host the dinner.  If you have always done the cooking, this could be a real treat.
  • Go out to eat.
  • Change the time that the meal is served.
  • Serve a buffet dinner rather than the usual sit down dinner.
  • Travel and visit family and friends.

Honor the memory of your loved one:

  • Watch old videos and share pictures.  Tell the story behind the video or picture.
  • Light a candle in memory of your loved one.
  • Do something in memory of your loved one.  For example, plant a tree or give a donation to your church or favorite charity in memory of your loved one.

Most importantly, think on and share good memories.  Dwelling on good memories is healing not only on holidays, but every day. If by chance your relationship was difficult or if the death was a suicide you may experience conflicted feelings related to your good memories due to the dynamics of the relationship or the type of death.  This is normal.  However, even though this may make sorting out memories and thinking on good memories more difficult, make the choice to remember at least one good memory and meditate on it daily.

Learn more in Grieving Forward, Death Happened, Now What?

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