While Christmas is such a joyous time for most of us, there are times when grief is in the forefront during the holidays. For many the holidays will forever be a reminder of what has been lost. This week my friend Michelle (you can read about her loss here) shared some practical tips for dealing with tough times during the holidays on our local news station. If you know someone dealing with a recent loss I would encourage you to read along and even watch the video clip.
- Be honest with yourself and those around you. Hiding your grief will only stand to cause more stress and give a false feeling of healing to those around you. Even if it is hard, share what you can and cannot be expected to handle.
- Know it is okay to not be okay. Give yourself permission to feel the way you feel with no need to make excuses
- Give yourself permission to say yes and to say no. Everyone is different and you should follow your heart and do as much or as little as you feel able to handle. If you are not ready to handle a celebration, even with your closest friends and family, give yourself permission to decline.
- Find a support group. Joining with others who know the loss you are feeling can provide you comfort and guidance as you navigate through grief and the holidays. Whether it is a group of people or an individual you know who has experienced a similar loss it can help to reach out and share.
Even though divorce is not an actual loss by death, it is still a loss many will grieve and life will change sometimes dramatically. I remember my first few Christmases after my divorce being tough. Here are a few tips for handling the holidays after a separation or divorce.
- Keep realistic expectations. You may miss the extended family or not be capable of spending the same on gifts and it’s better to recognize and be realistic about what to expect.
- Acknowledge things may be different and old traditions may need to change. Especially when kids are involved there may have been Christmas activities now split between two homes. Use this time to find a new activity you can call your own.
- Prepare don’t procrastinate. Dreading the coming holiday may cause you to delay the preparations but in the end this will only cause more stress which will add to the sadness.
- Again, find a support group and others who are supportive and understand your situation. Hearing how others handled the loneliness of that first Christmas as a newly single divorcee or a single parent can help.
For me it is always the hardest not knowing how to comfort someone when I know nothing directly about their loss. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way which may help you if you encounter someone going through one of these situations.
- Do not take withdrawal from celebrations personally. Especially if you are family you may feel rejected by someone’s refusal to participate. I mean, you truly believe the togetherness would benefit them right? Remind yourself unless you have specifically gone through their exact loss you cannot feel what they feel and do not take it personally. Offer your support and love with a kind note or personal visit around the holidays.
- Make a donation in their loved ones name. Many churches have opportunities around the holidays to provide donations for flowers in the church and such and it would be a special gift for you to recognize the family member who has passed. If they have a favorite charity you can also make a donation in their memory. Knowing someone has remembered their loved one will be special to them.
- Invite a recent divorcee to join your Christmas gathering especially if you know they will be facing the holidays alone or for the first time without their children.
I would honestly even think those who are still dealing with the aftermath of the hurricanes are struggling in many ways during the holidays. Their old way of life has been altered and even once secure families may be facing extreme limits on income. All of these types of stress can really cause the holidays to feel like a burden instead of the celebration we all dream about. I hope this post reminds us to be a little more compassionate in our response to those who may be struggling.