For Caregivers And Those Who Grieve: How To Handle The Holidays

Missing Someone Over The ‘Happy Holidays’?

The commercials for the holidays started early (some of the stores already had their Christmas trees up in August), and now is the time that those of you who have suffered a loss are beginning to experience ‘Holiday blues’. Whether you’ve experienced a divorce, the end of a friendship, or the loss of a loved one, the holidays can make the loss of that person even more painful. Instead of feeling jolly, one may assume a pasted smile accompanied often with sadness and depression. Those that have never experienced these ‘holiday blues’ don’t understand; those that have, know that it can be terribly debilitating. Whether the loss happened years ago or recently, the hurt is there, and in unexpected and startling ways. You see or hear something that reminds you of your loved one and the pain is there all over again. It’s normal to mourn even years later, especially during the holidays when it can be extra painful. Friends and family may think that they are helping with suggestions like:

    “Oh, just come on out, you will feel better!”,

or

    “It’s been so long ago, can’t you just move on?”

and for those who’ve have experienced a death,

    They’re in a better place!”

it doesn’t heal the pain and often times intensifies the loss. But don’t fault those who are trying to ‘help’; they don’t know what to do and really care about you and the painful time you are having. Know that, in some cases, they are experiencing the loss as well as you are, although not as intensely. However, although you can never go back to ‘the way things were’, you can find ways to heal or minimize the pain. Each person is different and must find their healing in different ways. It may take years, but you can begin now and find your way. It doesn’t mean that the pain won’t come back, or the sadness will evaporate – but we each can choose our attitude. We each choose our mood. We each choose to take steps forward (or backwards), even if tiny ones.
 
 
How to Celebrate when Missing Someone

Do Something Positive: When you start feeling sad, do something that brings you joy or at least pleasure; see a movie, take a walk, play some music. Do something that makes you feel good.
 
 
Practice ‘Random Acts Of Kindness’: When we help others, we get outside ourselves and focus on the needs of someone else. We may see them smile, it makes us feel good too. There are numerous ways to do this! 

    Pay for the order of the car behind you at a drive-in or in a restaurant. 
    Put change in an expired parking meter. 
    Bake cookies and give them to a neighbor, your doctor’s office, co-workers, the church, etc. 
    Clean out your closet and donate clothes you won’t wear to a worthy cause. 
    Volunteer at an animal shelter or nursing home. 
    Shovel a neighbor’s walk, take their paper to the door, carry their trashcan back from the curb or rake their leaves. 
    Take someone you haven’t seen for months to lunch to ‘catch up’.

 
 
Create a New Tradition: Whether your loss, it is the emptiness and memories that bring the pain. Often we think that the pain we encounter by keeping old traditions is worth it, but in the end we are the ones that suffer. Create a new tradition – whether it is the food, the decorations or even the location the festivities are held. Change or add to the festivities with new traditions.
 
 
Don’t Ignore the Pain: By ignoring it, you are only allowing it to sabotage you at unexpected times. It’s okay to admit that you aren’t okay. So plan a time during the holidays to fully remember and mourn those you have lost. Look at scrapbooks, read old letters or favorite poems. Write a journal entry about what they have meant to you and how they affected your life, visit old places that you shared together. Talk to someone about your loss, toast them together or alone, cry, remember – missing lost loved ones during the holidays is natural and it is important to communicate your emotions instead of avoiding them. This is where that healing comes.

In this sort of catharsis there can be real healing that makes a space for you to move on with joyous holidays.

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