Coping With Bereavement During the Holidays

December is an emotionally laden month for most adults. For the bereaved, Christmas is probably the most difficult holiday. It is the day more than any other that means “family together”. There are so many beliefs, rituals, traditions and memories. We become much more aware of the voids in our lives.

The best way to deal with it is to make specific plans. You can assess your priorities, make changes and decide what traditions or rituals you will or will not keep at this time. Give yourself the gift of permission to heal and go through the process of grief.

Here are some ideas and suggestions that have been found helpful in coping with the Holiday Season:

  1. Family get togethers may be extremely difficult. Sit down with your family and decide what you want to do for the holiday season. Be honest with each other about your feelings. Undertake only what each member can handle comfortably. Don’t set expectations too high for yourself or for the day. If you wish things to be the same, you are going to be disappointed.
  2. There is no right or wrong way to handle the day.
  3. Be careful of “shoulds”- it is better to do what is most helpful for you and your family. If a situation looks especially difficult, don’t get involved if possible.
  4. What you choose to do the first year, you don’t have to do the next.
  5. Figure ways to make decorating easier like using a ceramic tree, letting others help, or not even having a tree.
  6. You may want to visit relatives, friends or even go away on a vacation. Planning, packing, etc. keeps your mind somewhat off the holiday and you share the time in a different and hopefully less painful setting.
  7. Don’t set yourself up to be alone. Reach out to others who may need companionship. Invite someone else to join you who would otherwise be alone.
  8. Take care of yourself, get enough sleep, eat well and slowly, take vitamins, avoid excessive amounts of coffee or tea.
  9. Some people fear crying in public. Worrying about crying is an additional burden. If you let go and cry, you will probably feel better. You will not ruin the day for other family members, but will provide them with the same freedom.
  10. Don’t forget that the anticipation of any holiday is so much worse than the actual holiday.

You might ask yourself the following questions when evaluating whether to do a certain activity:

  1. Do you like doing it?
  2. Would Christmas be Christmas without it?
  3. Who is responsible for seeing that it gets done?
  4. Is it a one person job or can it be shared?
  5. Do you do it out of habit, tradition, freedom of choice or obligation?
  6. It this something you want to do differently?