Coping with Holidays and Other Special Days
By Jennifer McBride, M.A.
Director of Grief Support & Community Education
While holiday times bring a certain kind of sorrow to those who are grieving, it can be the significant times in a person’s life, times not on everyone’s calendars, that can be especially difficult.
These might include:
• Anniversary of the death
• Wedding anniversaries
• Birthdays of other family members
• Major family occasions such as weddings, baptisms, graduations
or other milestones
There are many ways to observe and commemorate these important occasions, such as visiting the final resting place of a family member or finding a visual, verbal or symbolic way to remind others of a special person’s continued presence in the life and history of their family. Recently, one family shared favorite holiday memories of their loved one. There was laughter. There were tears. And there was relief brought about by releasing feelings honestly and directly.
As we are grieving it may be helpful to acknowledge that holiday times can be difficult and even marginalize those who aren’t feeling like “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Knowing that there is no right way or wrong way to grieve, only your way, gives you permission to do what is best for yourself and those close to you at holidays and anniversaries.
Here are some suggestions…
• Care for yourself – mind, body & spirit.
Do things that are helpful, nourishing and comforting for you, such as listening to music, having quiet time, enjoying a cup of tea or a bath that can be soothing.
• Reserve the right to change your mind. Well-meaning people may extend invitations, and even press us to attend. Just because someone invites, doesn’t mean our attendance is required. Care for yourself in terms of how much socializing you can tolerate. People who truly care will understand if you tell them how you are feeling.
• Keep some traditions… or create new ones. Some people wish to do things in the ways they’ve always done them. This can be the best thing for some, but others might find it helpful to create new traditions or do something completely different. Exercise your right to grieve in your own way.
• Acknowledge that life has changed.Sometimes people don’t want to mention the name of the person who died, thinking that this is easier for us and what we would prefer.. Let people know through your words and actions that it’s OK to speak of the person who died. Set a place at the table and perhaps place a candle or photograph there that shows that that person’s presence is still felt.