If you’ve lost a loved one, you know that the holidays could bring on a lot of sadness, confusion, and longing. There are so many memories from these days which means that dealing with grief during the holidays can feel daunting.
When Thanksgiving came around last year, it was the first time my family felt empty. It was the first Thanksgiving without my brother which left a huge void in the room and of course our lives. Things were forever different.
Every Thanksgiving, we would celebrate at home with my dad doing all the cooking. We would sit on the couch to watch football, talk trash about the bad plays and laugh about something dumb (usually my dad setting off the smoke alarm with burnt bread.)
I know the holidays can feel unbearable. I’d do anything to prevent people from feeling this pain, but sadly it’s a way of life we all have to face. Although it won’t be easy, here’s how to deal with your grief during the holidays:
Feel the pain without trying to mask it
Feeling pain is a part of the healing process. I wish I could tell you differently, but you’ll need to feel this and trust that with time it will get easier. I’m not saying it will go away, it just will become more bearable to face these moments or these days that flood your mind with memories.
Yes, you may randomly cry when you’re cutting up the cheese platter. Or you could snap on your mom for asking you the same question for the 3rd time. Rough moments may happen, but you will get better. The worst thing you could do is push your feelings down and live in anguish trying to cover up your pain, especially with toxic outlets.
Say no to things if it’s too much to bear
My brother passed on December 1st, so the entire Christmas season was filled with sorrow. Instead of trying to go to fun holiday events, listen to cheery music, put up a brightly decorated tree, and even shop for gifts we didn’t even want, we just said no to all of it.
You don’t have to rush into anything if you’re only doing it because “it’s just what you have to do” because you really don’t have to do anything that fills you with shitty feelings. Others may want you to get out, but if it’s too painful you don’t have to do it. People will understand and they may even be willing to help you honor your loved one in a better way.
One thing I do want to point out is don’t allow your grief to hold you back from doing things that could bring you a glimmer of joy. If your friends are sitting by the fire with hot cocoa and slipper socks on – GO! Some things are great to do because the people who love you will be there for you. They might even help you find something to smile or laugh about – and you DO NOT need to feel guilty for that moment.
Honor your loved one
Love never fades, so honoring your loved one, even if it’s with a new tradition, could be a great way to remember them. For example, if they loved mac and cheese with little pieces of ham and jalapenos scattered, you can try incorporating it into your Thanksgiving meal as a side dish. Or if they wrapped their presents with a whole roll of tape, wrap some of yours the same way.
This will allow you to connect on something that you all remember about your loved one. You’ll feel love for them and have new memories to share while honoring them.
Ask for help
When I was younger, I never wanted to ask for help because I didn’t want to seem weak. This was a weak-minded way of thinking though because asking for help is a sign that you’re interested in your wellbeing. If you’re feeling that you want to ask for help, please do so.
It may help to find a therapist or a support group that can help you deal with your grief in a healthy manner. Connecting with support groups (like The Dinner Party!) will bring you closer to people who can relate in some way and help you get through the tough times by relating on a deeper level.
The bottom line
Grief sucks. Grief during the holiday sucks a whole lot too. I wish I could tell that it doesn’t have to, but when we lose someone we love, the feeling of grief is immense. Dealing with grief during the holidays may be difficult, but by feeling your grief, saying no to things you don’t want to go to, honoring your loved one and asking for help, you will get through the holiday season.
The holidays may always seem tough without your loved ones, but in time, you’ll be stronger than you think. If you ever need to chat, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me: Kristin@thoughtfulblend.com.