The holidays can be a time of deep profound sadness, the missing of the previous life is so poignant in, and sentimental reminders abound. On top of all that there’s those holiday songs and commercials, invites to parties and events, there’s the hustle and bustle of holiday prep and stress of family time. It can be very overwhelming and really create a time of even more stress for those grieving.
It can bring up a past loss that still brings that melancholy sad place.
I bet you can think of at least one person you know who’s suffered a loss this past year, maybe even yourself. Maybe you are missing someone that passed a while ago and the holidays are still hard for you? Is there anything you could do to make this time less stressful and painful? How might you be able to support a friend or family member in this time? Let’s take a look at Grief Holiday Triage below.
Grief Holiday Triage
First – Holidays and Grief - Expectations
Each person’s grief journey is unique to them. There is no right or wrong way to grieve. Remember at this time it seems like everything can be a trigger to a memory. Songs, scents, pictures, traditions, it can be truly overwhelming. Respect that and give yourself or loved one the time and space to just be.
You may notice some of the following:
- Feeling more sensitive and emotional.
- Being needy and seeking comfort.
- Tears and crying more frequently and maybe more loudly.
- Avoidance of people and events.
- Anger, frustration, or other emotions bubbling up.
- Feelings of profound sadness and loss – maybe like reliving it again
- Wanting to get away from the “normal” traditions.
- Trying to keep the traditions just like they were.
- Over busy trying to not feel.
May back out at the last minute from attending an event
- Respect that it wasn’t the right time & feel no guilt
- May show up at the last minute – respect that you made it & feel no guilt
Second: - How To Plan for the Holidays Yourself & Support Someone Who’s Grieving
For the grieving and those who feel a sense of loss:
It’s normal to have a full range of emotions. It is OK and in fact healthy to show your emotions and talk about them. Be prepared with tissues.
Acknowledge where you are on your grief journey. Take stock of what you want and can currently deal with in relation to the holidays.
Determine what events, activities, and traditions you would enjoy this year.
Make a plan and determine what events you will attend, what things you want to participate in.
It is OK to start new traditions and/or stop old traditions. Know that duplicating the past is impossible and do what makes sense for you and your family.
- I stopped making some of the side dishes my late 1st husband loved when I realized no one else enjoyed them. We came up with some new traditions along the way that made sense at that time.
Know that you may be hit very hard emotionally. Realize this is normal and prepare for it.
You may be able to think about the holidays and be aware of trigger points/events and plan your emotional responses.
You may not and could be blindsided. Know it’s OK and shows how grief is affecting you.
Let other’s know where you are and what your needs are.
It is OK to say, “Wow, I know I’m.. (crying often, seem cranky, sentimental..have lots of needs…) I have experienced a deep loss and this is how it’s effecting me at the moment. I just need ___ (hug, kiss, time alone, your support, just listen…).
Lastly, ask and accept help.
- This was really hard for me until someone said; if you accept their help you will bless them. Totally changed my idea of help as just pity for me. I was able to bless them to by allowing them to help me. It is humbling and beautiful at the same time.
For those supporting others:
- Ask – How can I support you during this difficult time?
- If they say they don’t know offer something you can give or skill you have.
- Run errands, do household tasks, cut the grass, trim bushes/trees, put up lights, clean the house, laundry, pick up or watch kids, drive to an event, grocery shop, provide a meal, take out to lunch/dinner, have them over for coffee. Those all were greatly appreciated by us.
- Please don’t judge them or tell them they should be over it, moving on, come on this is fun, you always loved this, you know so&so loved this, do this for __.
- Provide understanding and support the best you can.
- Offer to listen and be a friend/family member.
- Provide reassurance.
- If they ask for help – determine if you can and are able to provide that help.
- If you hear a need you cannot fulfill consider who might be able to help your friend or loved one.
- Be respectful and keep asking and inviting them to events and checking in a respectful way. Give them space but do keep them in the loop.
Third - Honesty, Healing, and Hope
During this time be honest with yourself on where you are with your grief journey and what you need.
Keep yourself healthy – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
Rest and exercise.
Be mindful of trying to over do to numb the pain.
- Over eating, drinking, other addictions, shopping, cooking, porn, etc.
- Over doing - keeping yourself over busy, over volunteering, activities and events.
- Working extra hours. Work can provide an escape, I get that...
Take time to surround yourself with supportive and positive people. Too much alone time can be negative. Find a healthy balance of reflective alone time and social/family time.
Consider volunteering – it’s a great way to give back, feel good, and focus on someone and something else.
- We volunteered at a Thanksgiving event three weeks after my 1st husband’s death. It was a good reminder that even though we’d been through a tragic event, there were others that are also hurting and need love and support.
Take time to reflect. Process your feelings. What have you experienced? What have you learned about yourself? What do you wish to share with others? What do you want and need?
If you are up to it acknowledge the loss – light a candle in memory, hang a favorite ornament or holiday item.
Savor the memories – consider a scrapbook, recording a memory, use this as a means to move forward vs. getting stuck in your grief.
It’s OK to talk, cry, and be happy or full of joy. The full ranges of emotions are normal. Stuffing your feelings doesn’t work well and they tend to leak out all over the place.
Start a new tradition.
You can start to heal by allowing yourself to be - just be, acknowledge the loss, and participating as you can in the holidays.
Some questions to ask yourself:
- What could you do that might be OK or maybe even fun?
- Could you attend an event for a little while?
- What does the future hold for you?
Express your faith and spirituality. Discover or rekindle faith practices.
As the holidays wind down think of one thing to look forward to in the coming New Year.
In closing, remember this is the season where many suffer renewed or stronger grief because of the loss of a loved one. Regardless of a new loss or losing someone a few years or more, they might be very grateful to be supported around this time of year. My hope is that everyone finds support and doesn’t have to do the “Holiday Grief” thing alone. I am here to support those in my coaching practice.
If you or someone you know find this useful or thought provoking, I’d love to hear from you. Click like, share, comment, or email me – see buttons and links below.
If you are interested in coaching from me, I’d be honored to embark on that journey together with you. I desire supporting those in grief and their recovery.
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If you have any thoughts about death or suicide please call 911, or the suicide hot line 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-273-8255), or call a friend, family member, doctor, spiritual leader, or counselor. Now is not the time to be alone.
Peace, Love, & Blessings,
Bold Fulfilled Business & Life Coach –Change and Loss Specialty
Additional Resources on Grief and the Holidays
Note there are loads of resources out there. Here are a few and I have others on my website as well. (http://www.boldfulfilledlifecoach.com/free-resources-and-references.html)