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surviving the holdiays

Surviving the First Holiday Season After Losing Your Loved One

surviving the holdiaysSurviving the season

The holidays are generally fraught with emotion, even under the best of circumstances. When you are heading into the holiday season after a loved one has passed away, it can seem exponentially harder. The person you are missing will not be with you, will not be contributing their favorite dish to the table, will not be the tightest hug you receive upon arrival.

What made them happy

Instead of dreading the holidays, take a moment to remember what your loved one did during the season that brought them happiness. You can acknowledge them by engaging in an activity that they loved – a tree lighting ceremony, a religious service, watching or participating in their favorite winter sport.
You may look to other family members for how to navigate the scene, but it becomes painfully obvious that we all grieve differently. Your grief is yours alone, and while it may feel good, or even proprietary to hold onto the bond you had with your loved one, and not have to explain it to anyone else, you may find yourself judging those around you who appear not to be as affected.

As much as we might wish to be our best selves in situations like these, it is often far too easy to spiral down and justify other behaviors like drinking or eating too much, being overly sensitive – enough to engage in conflict with family members or friends, or disengage altogether.

Healthy alternatives

If you are hosting, plan to finish some of your many tasks on the day of the event – you will be able to excuse yourself from any situation because you have to check on something, finish preparing something, or tidy something.

If you are not hosting, schedule your visit with an “out,” suggesting that you have been invited elsewhere after the family get together so you will have a polite way to leave the situation if it gets too difficult.
Conversations in a group dynamic may be easier that individual ones. A group conversation about the loved one who has died can be happily nostalgic, with each person bringing a memory or anecdote that may lift a sad mood.

Sometimes, it is guilt that brings sadness. You are here, celebrating and enjoying the season, while the person you are missing is not. Indulging your grief – acknowledging that you are extremely sad and going to be sad for a finite period of time can be comforting. Tell yourself that this hour, or this day, will be devoted to the memory of the person you are missing, but after that, you know you have honored their memory, and now will focus on the other obligations or tasks in front of you.

Reaching out

It is always okay to reach out and ask for help when you are feeling overly stressed or overwhelmed by your emotions. Contacting family, friends, or a meet up group to take you out of a dark place is always an option; as are help centers and hotlines – be sure to utilize the resources around you so that you can be there for others in your life who may need help.

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