The holidays are such a joyous time and we have to remember that it isn’t always joyous for everyone.
I lost my mom a little over a year ago and it is still a hard thing to grasp around my head. Grieving the loss of a loved one is a deep and difficult challenge at any time. But the holiday season can magnify your sense of loss and mourning. Family gatherings and seasonal events can be painful reminders of the absence of a loved one. At the same time, they can also be comforting rituals where you spend time with family and friends, focusing on good memories and trying to recapture your sense of joy.
Ways to cope
If you are mourning a loss of a loved one this year, here are some important things that a good friend of mine helped me with.
- Only do what feels right. It’s up to you to decide which activities, traditions or events you can handle. Don’t feel obligated to participate in anything that doesn’t feel doable. Grieving takes time.
- Accept your feelings — whatever they might be. A good friend of mine always tells me, “If you want to be sad, be sad”.
- Call on your family and friends. Talk with loved ones about your emotions. Be honest about how you’d like to do things this year — if you want to talk about those who have passed, then do so, and let others know it’s OK. Take a buddy to events for support and create an “escape plan” together in case you need to bow out quickly.
- Focus on the kids. Kids make the holidays fun!
- Plan ahead. Sometimes the anticipation is worse than the actual holiday. Create comforting activities in the weeks approaching a holiday so that you have something to look forward to rather than building up a dread of the pain the holiday could bring. New activities might be easier, but familiar traditions might be comforting as well — do what feels best for you. Surrounding yourself with positivity can be very helpful.
- Give. It’s amazing how in times of grief, sometimes the biggest comfort is to give to others.
Julie Keeney is the Fitness/ Recreation Specialist at the Arc of Monroe’s Ballantyne Day Services.