As the holiday season approaches, you can feel the Christmas spirit quickly arriving. Every store is stocked to the brim with decorations and Black Friday deals. Neighborhoods are starting to twinkle with the glow of Christmas lights up and down the streets. Family and friends are making plans to go here and there and cook this and that. It’s one of the most wonderful times of the year…for most people.
For some, it’s one of the hardest. This may be their first holiday season without a significant loved one. Or, it could be the first time their children have to go visit their other parent for the holidays because of a divorce. In the midst of many people’s hustling and bustling there is a significant amount of people grieving through the holidays. If it’s not you, chances are you know someone suffering.
So, how do we help those grieving through the holidays? Here are a few ideas that could help!
Acknowledge the Holidays Will be Different
It’s okay to let people know Thanksgiving doesn’t feel the same without Grandma. It’s okay to mention you will miss all of Uncle Joe’s repetitive stories around the dinner table. It’s okay to cry about not sharing Christmas morning with your spouse for the first time. Things won’t be the same, but that doesn’t mean they have to be bad. Acknowledging your true emotions gives you the freedom to release them and begin enjoying the holidays in a new way. Releasing those anxious or pessimistic emotions allows you to begin moving forward to a new normal, similar to the way you have been trying to do in your every day, non-seasonal life.
Create New Traditions
Maybe the loved one’s you are missing over the holidays did things a particular way every year. With them being gone, you get the chance to evaluate what traditions you want to keep and what ones you wish to change. This could be the time to pass off the torch of who coordinates Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe try something new, like skipping a big dinner and having family time at the movies on Christmas Day. New traditions don’t have to be expensive or extravagant. They can be as simple as lighting a candle in your loved one’s honor or hanging a memorial stocking on the mantle. Be creative! Brainstorm with your family or friends who are grieving; help them find a new way to appreciate the world around them, even if it might seem a little out of their comfort zones.
Talk About your Missing Loved One(s)
Don’t be afraid to talk about who is missing. Share memories, eat their favorite dish or dessert, watch their favorite movies. Find a way to include them in your own special way. Reminiscing can be cathartic and bring healing.
It’s important to check in with your grieving loved ones to see how much they want to talk about. Don’t force them to engage in a conversation that is too raw for their emotional state. Remember that everyone grieves at different speeds. While you may be ready to talk for hours, they may only be ready to handle a few discussions throughout the family gatherings. Checking in allows the griever to know you are willing to listen when they are ready and that you are patient enough to walk through this difficult time at their pace.
It may take a few holiday seasons for those grieving to be “merry and bright” again. That’s okay. Give them time. Love on them. Don’t force them to be on your level of holiday cheer, but meet them where they are. Walk with them and rejoice in their small steps towards healing.
If at any point you feel like your grief, or your loved one’s grief, is becoming overwhelming, please consider contacting a professional to help with the grieving process.