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Coping with the Holidays

How can you make it through the holidays? Here are some suggestions that have helped other:
  1. Family get-togethers may be extremely difficult. Be honest with each other about your feelings. Sit down with your family and decide what you want to do for the holiday season. Don’t set expectations too high for yourself or the day. If you wish things to be the same, you may be disappointed. Undertake only what each family member is able to handle comfortably.
  2. There is no right or wrong way to handle the day. Some may wish to follow family traditions, others may choose to change them. It may help to do things just a little differently. What you choose the first year, you don’t have to do the next. The more you try to make it the same as it was before, the more obvious your loved one’s absence will be. Let your friends and family members know what you decide to do so that they are not surprised or disappointed.
  3. Be with people you find supportive and comforting. Work to identify those people around you who understand that the holiday season can heighten your feelings of loss. Choose to be with people who allow you to talk about your experience. You don’t need to be around people that want you to be miserable; however, you also don’t need to be around people that want you to maintain a “happy face.” Find those people that encourage you and accept you to simply think and feel whatever it is you think and feel.
  4. Keep in mind the feelings of young children. They may expect things to be the same as they always were. Try to make them as joyous as you can for them.
  5. Be careful of “shoulds”- it is better to do what is most helpful for you and your family. If a situation looks especially difficult over the holidays try not to get involved.
  6. Set limits. Realize that it isn’t going to be easy. Do the things that are very special and/or important to you. Do the best that you can. Decide what has to be done what can be delegated to others, and what can be eliminated.
  7. Baking and cleaning the house can get out of proportion. If these chores are enjoyable, go ahead, but not to the point that it is tiring. Ask others to share their baked goods with you or go to bake sales.
  8. Emotionally, physically and psychologically, the holidays (and grief) can be draining. You need every bit of strength. Try to get enough rest.
  9. If you used to cut down your own tree, consider buying it already cut this year or buy an artificial tree. Let your children, other family members, neighboring teens, friends, or people from your church help decorate the tree and house. If you choose not to have a tree, perhaps you could make a centerpiece from lower branches of a tree, get a ceramic tree or a small tabletop tree.
  10. One possibility for the first year may be to visit relatives, friends or even go away on vacation. Planning, packing, etc. keeps your mind somewhat off the holiday and you share the time in a different and, hopefully, less painful setting. If you feel you need to be home on Christmas Day, make plans to leave the next morning.
  11. How do you answer “Happy Holidays?” You may say “I’ll try” or “Best wishes to you.” You may think of many answers that you don’t say.

  12. If you are accustomed to having dinner at your home, instead, go to a relative’s home or change the time the meal is shared. Some people find it helpful to be involved in the activity of preparing a large meal. Serving buffet-style and/or eating in a different room may help.
  13. Consider not sending or cutting back on your cards this year. It is not necessary to send cards, especially to those people you will see over the holidays. You might consider sending a Christmas letter sharing your loss and your appreciation to those who are there for you.
  14. Holidays often magnify feelings of loss of a loved one. It is important and natural to experience the sadness that comes. To block such feelings is unhealthy. Keep the positive memory of your loved one alive.
  15. Often after the first year, the people in your life may expect you to be “over it.” We are never “over it,” but the experience of many bereaved is that eventually they enjoy the holidays again. Hold on to the HOPE!
  16. Don’t forget: “Anticipation of any holiday is usually much worse than the actual holiday.”
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