If you’ve had the unfortunate experience of losing a loved one this year, then you may not see the holidays as holding much to celebrate. Dreading the holidays after such a loss is a normal part of the grief process, and there really is no quick and easy solution to “getting over it” to get through the holidays. Remember above all else that the only real way to heal is with time, so while you may not be able to dodge the holidays all together, try to remember the following as you cope.
Do not expect much from the holidays for at least a year.
Expect to feel completely numb, and then accept that it’s okay to feel that way. In many ways, numbness is the best coping mechanism for pushing through the holiday season. As such, don’t force yourself to do things that could bring you out of the numbness and stir up emotions. For example, stay away from serious Christmas music and restrict your playlist to whimsical Christmas music, such as “Here Comes Santa Claus” or “Up on the Housetop.” If necessary, avoid all Christmas music.
The same goes with decorations. If you want to put up decorations, great. If you don’t feel like it, then don’t. Forcing yourself to “get into the holiday spirit” will hinder the healing, not help.
However, this does not mean that you should hinder the holiday for others. If they want to listen to holiday music and you’re afraid it will upset you, just leave the room. If your family gives gifts to celebrate, don’t deny anyone this tradition.
It’s okay to cry.
Expect you or other family members to be struck by something that will bring on tears. If it feels uncontrollable or if you’re trying to be strong for others, it’s okay to escape to the bathroom for a few minutes of alone time. If your tears or someone else’s tears spur on tears from others, band together to comfort one another and don’t dwell on the fact that you all are crying. Most likely, the tears will end as quickly as they started.
Alcohol has the tendency to lower one’s inhibitions, which does include emotions, so you are far more likely to shed tears or become too emotional after a drink than without a drink. If you are the type who is a sad or gloomy drinker, then avoiding alcohol over the holidays is doubly important.
Avoid activities that you always shared with your loved one.
Don’t do the things that you and your loved one always did together. Don’t go to the traditional places either. If you can, keep things simple. Maybe try to arrange the holiday to be spent at a different house this year. You can always return to traditions the following year.
Don’t spend the days leading up to the holiday worrying about how to cope with them.
The worst anxiety is always the anxiety of how to deal with the upcoming anxiety. Obsessing over how to get through the holiday will not only make it seem far worse than it is, but it can make the days seem even longer. Treat all days leading up to the holiday as ordinary days and remember that the holiday lasts only 24 hours. Once it is over, make sure it is completely over so you can return to your regular routine and let time run its course.
To anyone who will go through the holidays this year with the loss of a loved one, remember that your loved one would want you to do whatever you need to do–within reason–to get through the day as smoothly as possible.