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Grieving During the Happiest Time of Year

First off, if you’re reading this chances are you (or someone close to you) has lost someone, and I’m sorry.  I lost my dad last December, and though we technically celebrated Christmas last year, I think we were still in shock, and this will be our true first holiday season without him.  I still can’t really write much about him – he was simply amazing and left a big hole.  My mom and I have been participating in a program called GriefShare (which I recommend) and we also recently attended an event at our church called “Surviving the Holidays”.  I think we have gotten a lot of good information about what grieving might look like during the holiday season, how to deal with traditions, and in general some tips for coping with all the challenges you face during a time of year when friends and family are the focus.

grieving-during-the-happiest-time-of-year

Here are some of my favorite tidbits to share:

  • The holidays never were perfect, and never will be.  They will also never be the same.  Don’t set your expectations too high based on memories viewed through rose colored glasses.

    This one is hard for me, because I feel like things really were perfect as long as we were all together.  I also know that now as a mom, the biggest joy of this season is seeing it through my children’s eyes.  Even though Daddy is in heaven, I still can get a lot out of making this a special time for them, and that goal is helpful to keep me from wallowing.

  • Remember the dread is usually worse than the actual day.

    Umm amen.  I mean seriously.  As an introvert I have a lot little bit of social anxiety and often dread events and situations where I might be out of my comfort zone or not in control (check and check).  But once I am there and get settled in, I am fine.

  • Know your limitations, honor them, and talk about your needs with others.  Plan ahead.  Expect emotional ambushes.

    Grief is physically exhausting.  You have to take care of yourself and respect your physical needs just as much as your emotional needs.  Don’t fill your calendar too full, and if you RSVP for an event, you can warn the host that you might have to back out or leave early if it becomes too much.  You have to be flexible, and luckily I’ve only encountered people who understand that and give me the ability to do what I need to do without question.

  • Limit unnecessary stress.  This includes people who don’t support or comfort you. Don’t overdo it and accept help.

    This is hard for me.  1) I don’t accept help easily (#typeAcontrolfreakfirstchildproblems) or limit my stress, and then 2) I get overwhelmed and just check out.  I’m working on it 😉

  • Remember that grief is different for every person, because no two relationships are the same.  Extend grace and patience with family members who may feel differently than you, and allow everyone to do what they need to do.

    We are blessed to be a family that seems to be grieving similarly – we all enjoy talking about Daddy, looking at pictures, sharing memories, and give each other space to do what we need to do.  This is not always the case and if not, I am sorry, because that isn’t helpful to your grieving process.  Feel empowered to do what you need to do, without making someone else miserable preferably.  Remember no emotion is bad, and all emotions must be dealt with at some point.

  • Embrace your memories.  Fill your days with meaning and purpose.  Find some special way to honor your loved one.

    As a family we haven’t talked about this in detail yet, but we will eat some of Daddy’s favorite foods, have football on the TV, and hopefully can come up with a tradition to honor his memory each year.

 

Remember you have permission to do whatever you need to do during the holidays or other hard times of year.  For years my grandmother traveled right around her anniversary, and I have always assumed because it was easier to be in another country seeing something new and wonderful, rather than being at home alone.  And another thing, next year may be easier because of what you do this holiday season, which is an encouraging thought.  Sending peace and comfort to all families who are grieving this holiday season. <3

christmas-1991

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