It’s hard to imagine that “the most wonderful time of the year,” as it has been called and sung about, can actually be the most difficult time of the year for many people who are grieving the loss of a loved one. All the lights, sights, sounds, scents, and tastes of the holidays can be dulled by the hurt and pain of a loss.
While nothing can replace or shortcut the grieving process, experts tell us that there are some things we can do to help us approach and navigate the holiday season. Licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist, Amy Morin, wrote an article that ran in Inc. and Psychology Today that suggests the following strategies to help you get through the holidays without your loved one:
Trust that grief is part of healing. Morin suggests that time doesn’t heal the pain associated with a loss; rather, it’s what you do with that time that matters. Grief is a healing process. Experiencing the pain rather than trying to escape it actually helps in the long run. Over time, the holidays will get a little easier, after you allow yourself to work through your grief.
Set healthy boundaries. Some of your usual traditions or holiday celebrations may be too hard on you. Feel free to say no to things that may be too painful.
Focus on what you can control. So much of what goes on during the holidays is out of our control. We don’t select the music that’s being played in the grocery stores or at the doctor’s office. Focus on what you can control to lessen your heartache when you can. It’s perfectly fine to limit your decorations or shop for presents online only.
Make plans. For many people, the very thought of going to a holiday event is worse than the event itself. Morin suggests that you create an escape plan, so you can leave a holiday dinner or gathering at any time if you need to.
Free yourself to feel a range of emotions. You may feel all sorts of emotions over the holidays—joy, sadness, guilt, etc. Allow yourself to feel those emotions without judging yourself or thinking you should be happy.
Create new traditions. Be creative and do something different. You can even take an old tradition and adjust it to your new phase in your life.
Do something kind for others. Even when you’re in the midst of grief, you still have something to offer the world. Performing a few acts of kindness can be really good for a grieving person’s spirit. Donate gifts to families in need, serve meals at a soup kitchen, or volunteer to help people in a nursing home make holiday crafts if you’re up for it.
Honor your memories. Come up with a way to remember your loved one—it could be a candle you light each night or, perhaps, enjoying his or her favorite meal.
Ask for help. If you are struggling, reach out to close friends and family. There also may be support groups or professional counselors available to help you deal with your grief in a healthy manner.
Forest Lawn will host two virtual Lights of Remembrance events to honor your loved ones through music, inspirational words, reflections, and the lighting of a candle. A service in English will be held online on Thursday, Dec. 3, at 7 pm at www.facebook.com/forestlawn. A Spanish language service will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 7 pm at www.facebook.com/forestlawn.lat. No reservations are required.