5 Tips | Grief & The Holidays

The holiday season is here, which means family get-togethers, gift-giving, and happy times. For some this is the case, but for others, this can be a time filled with grief and sadness. Holidays are for spending time with those we love the most, so how can someone be expected to handle this time when a loved one has died? 

If you are missing a loved one this holiday season, here are some tips to help you take a step back from the grief and survive the holidays. 

 

Tip One: Be prepared for grief triggers.

Let’s be honest, triggers are particularly evident during the holidays. Preparing for these triggers and having a plan to cope with them can make the triggers more manageable if you encounter them.

Tip Two: It’s okay to take a break from togetherness. 

Plan to get some space from the holiday chaos if you need it. Being surrounded by family and friends is great, but everything all at once can be emotionally overwhelming and hard to overcome. Don’t feel guilty about your grief. It is important to be conscious of your limits and take some time to collect yourself.

Tip Three: Seek gratitude. 

The holidays are a time to gather together, eat good food, and share what we’re thankful for. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, grief can make it difficult to feel thankful. Although you may be focusing on the loss, try and remember the good things that relationship brought into your life. Search for that gratitude. 

Tip Four: Decide which traditions you want to change or keep.

Acknowledge that things will be different this year. Some holiday traditions will remind you of your lost loved one, but it is okay to limit which of these you allow yourself to practice or not. Take time to determine which traditions will make you happy and which will overwhelm you. 

Tip Five: Say yes to help. 

Although you may typically play host during the holidays, this year may be too much to take on alone after losing your loved one. Accept help when it’s offered. Remember there is no shame in saying yes. Those who love you want to help. 

 

The holidays can be hard for those who have recently lost a loved one. Grief can be especially unavoidable during these times, but it is important to remember that you can still feel joy through the grief. Taking these tips into account can help you prepare for that grief and make your holidays more enjoyable despite your recent loss.

Dear Mom

I see you, but it isn’t you.  The same eyes, the same smile, the same face.

But you’re leaving me, one breath at a time, going to a peaceful place in your mind

where there’s no place for me.

The arms that used to hold me are quiet at your sides.  The legs that used

to take me for long walks are still.  Gone are the memories of my childhood.  You

recognize me, but you no longer KNOW me.

Week by week you turn further inward, and I can’t reach you there to bring

you back.  I can only keep watch, and laugh with you on a good day, and retreat to my

room and cry when confusion clouds your every thought.

I will love you, and care for you, and keep you safe until you leave, and

the memories I’ll have on this journey will give me peace until we’re together again

Your Loving Daughter

It’s Okay to Feel Shocked

The death of a loved one is a hard reality to grasp. Often, it can feel like a bad dream that you just can’t wake up from. Although you may know that your loved one is very sick or in the process of dying, the unavoidability of dying always feels sudden, unforeseen and unbelievable. It’s shocking.

It is important to recognize that shock is a natural part of the grieving process and can occur many times before the loss fully settles in. Although it doesn’t feel normal, it’s your body’s way of handling painful experiences. Given time, the shock will weaken, but you must understand this process is hard, and it takes time to accept death.

Most of all, keep in mind that although the grieving process is difficult and the loss is shocking, there will come a time when you will acknowledge and accept the loss. You will always remember the loved ones you have lost, but you do not need to always grieve their absence.

If you find yourself struggling with the shock and overwhelming grief of losing a loved one, keep these phrases in mind:

  • Allow your grief
  • Be patient with yourself
  • Be willing to change things

 

Our bereavement services are available to families for up to 13 months following the loss of a loved one. We also host monthly support group sessions at our AT Home Health & Hospice Care locations. Support groups offer families and friends a platform to share their experience with others in the community who are facing similar situations. Please contact us for more information about our bereavement services. 

The Grief Survival Kit

Let yourself grieve. It’s important to let yourself take this roller coaster ride and feel your emotions rather than suppress them. No matter how hard you try to bury those feelings of grief, they will continue to resurface, and you won’t be able to truly move on. Start the healing process by giving into grief.

Lean on friends and family. Your friends and family expect you to be upset. While they may not always know the right things to do or say, they do want to be there for you even if it’s just to listen or offer affection. Never feel too proud or embarrassed to lean on them in this time of need.

Join a support group – online or offline. Whether you find a group through social media or in person, support groups provide ways to talk and listen to others who are in the same position and truly understand what you are going through.

Focus on the positive aspects of your life. The loss you are experiencing could feel like the worst thing that’s ever happened to you and no one can change your mind. Despite this, what you need to do is reflect on all the good aspects that continue to bless your life and are worth pushing through the grief.

Keep yourself busy. Become more involved, go on a trip, try something new – participate in activities you enjoy and that can keep you focused on something other than your grief. Redirect your energy into doing things you’ve always wanted to do but never prioritized.

Breathe. If ever you find the grief to be too overwhelming, take a few deep breaths. The body’s breathing becomes shallow when we are feeling tense or stressed, resulting in insufficient oxygen to the body. This adds to the stress you are already feeling, so focusing on conscious, deeps breaths helps you relax and breathe normally.

Journaling Through the Grief

Journaling while grieving can help you document and process the feelings of grief you are experiencing. As you begin the healing process and reconnecting with who you once were, you may start thinking about or telling yourself things you would want to record. Putting these thoughts and feelings into words can be very beneficial and help in better working through the grief. This is why it is a great idea to keep a grief journal.

There are many, different ways you can start to fill up your journal. From creative writing and poetry to journaling and writing letters to your deceased loved one, each way provides you with a venue to communicate without fear of being judged. Opening up and disclosing your feelings to others can be difficult, but each of these methods allows you to express what you are feeling in a more personal, therapeutic way.

Research demonstrates that grief journaling after a significant loss has beneficial value. Experts explain that ‘reconstructing your personal self-narrative’ is crucial to the healing process. A grief journal can assist you in recording your experience, recognizing patterns, and establishing growth.

Are you interested in grief journaling but aren’t sure where to start? Here are some writing prompts to get you started:

  • Today, I am really missing…
  • I feel most connected to my loved one when I…
  • If I could talk to you again, I’d tell you…
  • My goal for this week…
  • I know I’m going to be okay because…