Written by Ed Partyka, Chaplain at Amita Saint Thomas Hospice
The holidays are difficult after the loss of a loved one. We feel empty and lonely, and we may need extra help surviving the season. Here are a few suggestions that might help you get through the rough times. They won’t make the sadness or grief go away, but they might make it a little easier to handle:
- GET SUPPORT. Staying close to family and friends can help you through the holidays. Look for support groups at your church, nearby hospital or hospice organization. Many hospices have grief support teams and meetings with professionals to help you through tough times. Sometimes you will meet with other people who had similar losses, and you can lean on each other and express your feelings openly. Expressing your feelings is sometimes very helpful. At the same time you’re getting help, you might be helping others with similar grief issues. Also, lean on family, neighbors, friends, church members and others that might be compassionate and willing to be there for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with shopping, planning or being together with other people. Try to get adequate exercise and sleep if possible. Sometimes taking a nice walk either alone or with friends can really be helpful and help you feel more tired at bedtime.
- APPRECIATE YOUR REMAINING LOVED ONES. Appreciate and spend time with your other loved ones and friends. They may also be missing the person that has died, and sometimes, giving them support will help you through these tough times. If you have enough energy, consider volunteering at a hospital, soup kitchen or visit with someone in a nursing home or shelter.
- CELEBRATE AS USUAL. Some people like to keep their holiday traditions intact. This might be painful, and you know they are not going to be the same as they used to be. Other family members might be hurting too so don’t be afraid to talk about your feelings with each other. Some Christmas songs or traditions might be too painful to handle the first year, so if you feel that’s the case, avoid that particular song or tradition.
- DECIDE HOW AND WHERE YOU WILL SPEND THE HOLIDAYS IF YOU HAVE A CHOICE. This might be one of your hardest choices as the holidays approach. Your choices might be to do things as you always have, do something totally different or try to avoid the holiday altogether. Think about your options and discuss them with your loved ones. They may feel the same way, and you might want to try something new. If there are small children involved, that may not be an option as the traditional Christmas is something they might need and want more than anything.
- YOU WILL SURVIVE THE HOLIDAYS. Even though you’re hurting, you will survive the holidays. There may be no way that you can make this holiday fun. It’s also okay to have a good time, so laugh, sing, visit, pray and enjoy your other family members and friends. Try not to feel guilty about having a good time. The best gift we can give ourselves and our loved ones is to live each day to the fullest.
If you’re a religious person, praying and putting your trust and love in our Lord can also be very, very helpful to get you through the toughest time after a loss. The comfort we can get from the Lord and in our Church is sometimes the most powerful comfort there is.
Want helpful tips on aging successfully during the holidays and beyond?