The holidays are a time of tradition. Most of us have special traditions with our families or loved one during the holidays, such as cooking a special meal or going around the table to express our gratitude. This is why the first holiday season after a loved one has passed can be extremely difficult.
With all the memories created and traditions celebrated during this time of year thoughts of loved ones easily flood in. Once that special person is not there anymore, it’s difficult to not feel their presence on special days like the holidays.
Similarly, if you are someone who used to enjoy the holidays with that loved one that is gone, it makes it extra difficult to not have them by your side in times when you would like to share that happiness with them.
If you are the one who is grieving:
If this is your first holiday season without your loved one, take a deep breathe. It will be hard to not have your loved one present. However, here are a few things you can do to make the transition easier.
First, don’t pressure yourself to be happy all the time. Yes, holidays are fun but they don’t “have” to be fun if you are not feeling the holiday spirit. Remember that you can make space to honor your feelings and the person you are missing.
Second, think about ways in which you would like to honor your loved one. Is there anything you would like to do to remember your loved one? Go around the table and everyone and say your favorite memory of them or tell a friend that you are thinking about your loved one. Sometimes, being able to express how you are feeling, even if there is no solution, is therapeutic.
Third, if you know what kind of support you need, tell your friends and family. Do you not want to talk about it? Let them know! Would you like them to ask you about it? Let me know, as well! Don’t know what you need? That’s okay! Our needs change constantly and navigating through these difficult times does not come with a rulebook.
Lastly, be compassionate with yourself! Holidays can bring new waves of grief. And, like all healing, it takes time and being hard on yourself won’t make it any better.
If your friend or loved one is the one who is grieving:
First, ask them how they would like support during the holiday season. If they don’t know, offer them suggestions like the one’s above! If they don’t want to do anything, respect that as well.
Second, our loved ones may think that they will burden us if they talk about their grief. Remind them that’s not true and that we want to be there for them. Make space for their grief and don’t dismiss their emotion or change the subject. Others can feel when someone is uncomfortable with grief, and it can discourage them from coming to you when they need support.
Third, it can be difficult to support a friend or loved one when they are grieving because everyone goes through it differently. How you would grieve in a situation may be different for them. Be aware of your own reactions to their grief and how it is impacting you. Don’t put your own assumptions and coping on them.
Lastly, it is okay to experience and express joy and happiness around them. It may feel insensitive to enjoy the holidays when they are feeling loss, but it’s possible to have both emotions of joy and sadness at the same time. The last thing someone who is grieving wants to feel is a damper to other’s holiday joy.