For people who have lost a loved one, holiday celebrations can trigger an avalanche of emotion.
“The holidays are stressful for people in general, so if you add grief on top of that, it can become overwhelming,” says Jill Wilke, director of Lake Regional Palliative Care, Home Health & Hospice. “There’s no avoiding this season, though, so people need healthy coping strategies to help them manage their feelings.”
If grief has you dreading the holidays, these strategies from Wilke might help with coping positively.
- Eliminate unnecessary stress. Don’t overextend yourself. If shopping is too much for you, ask a friend for help, purchase gifts online or buy gift cards.
- Attend gatherings that feel right to you. Be with people who understand how you are feeling and bring you comfort.
- Plan ahead. Talk to the people hosting the gathering and let them know that you may need to go to a quiet area or even leave if you are experiencing emotions that guide you to be alone. Create a phrase or signal that lets them know you need to step away.
- Know that it is OK to choose to celebrate your family traditions knowing things will never be exactly the same. You may choose to avoid celebrations altogether. Some families choose to create new traditions. There is no right or wrong way to be during the holidays.
- Include your loved one’s name and share memories. This may bring both sadness and joy to your holidays.
- Give yourself permission to have a nice time. Don’t feel guilty if you do. It doesn’t mean that you have forgotten.
Grief Support Group
Lake Regional offers a grief support group to help people experiencing various losses, including illness, death, divorce, loss of a home and other difficult life events. Find a meeting.