When Grief Comes Knocking During the Holidays

I recently had the opportunity to speak on the Living Well television show about how to cope with grief during the holidays.  You can watch the video by clicking the picture at the end of this post.  I wanted to share a bit more on of my thoughts this topic since I only had a few minutes during my interview.

I especially wanted to speak about this topic because I lost my mother to breast cancer in September and this has been our first holiday season without her.  She was only 54 years old.  Christmas was one of her favorite times of the year and she loved spending extra time with our family.

Celebrate in Your Own Way

There is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays, especially after the loss of a loved one.  Do not put extra pressure on yourself to decorate, cook a big meal, or plan a party unless you honestly want to do so.  And if you do, try not to stress out about it being perfect. 

Balance Alone & Social Times

It’s okay to be alone and okay to want support from others on that special day.  Some people prefer to grieve in private, and I recommend that you trust your gut feeling on what is best for you.  Others might prefer to share memories with family and friends, rather than being alone.  If you choose to be alone, make sure to have a support system or friend you can call if your thoughts take a negative turn. 

It is OKAY to Have Feelings

Give yourself permission to be sad or quiet.  You do not have to force holiday cheer or wear a fake smile just to make other people more comfortable.  That is not selfish.  On the other hand, don’t feel guilty for being happy and celebrating if that is how you really feel. 

Honor Your Loved One

There are many things we can do to honor the memory of those we have lost.  You could donate money or time to charity, shovel a neighbor's snowy driveway, or bring a present to a child in need.  Leaving new flowers or even Christmas caroling at the burial site can help you connect to those memories again.

holiday memory ornament Courtney Stivers Summit Family Therapy Peoria Illinois

It is important to remember children in this process.  They do not always have the words to express how they feel and may suffer in silence.  It is helpful to have age appropriate activities so they feel included.  This year, my sister-in-law had a wonderful idea.  Our kids made Christmas ornaments to honor "Nana's" memory.  Each child had a clear bulb style ornament and then filled it with ribbons, sparkles, snowflakes, etc. to represent different feelings and special moments with with their grandmother.  They all really enjoyed it and put them on our Christmas tree. 

Focus on the Good Memories

I think the most important part to surviving a holiday after a death is to stay focused on the good memories and not on the loss.  As awful as it was to lose my mother, I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I never had her in it.  I will forever be grateful for the time we did share together. 

What are some other ways you have coped with grief during holiday time?

Click to Watch Video - Holiday Grief

Click to Watch Video - Holiday Grief