Christmas lights, holiday hustle, the shopping extravaganza, but something... nope.. someone is missing. Here we go again walking through the holidays with a planet sized hole left in out hearts.
The first year we spent without our daughter for the holidays was an exceptionally painful one. We watched our friends and family go on like usual and we were left with feelings of discomfort and confusion. How were we to navigate this season? People walked on eggshells around us making it incredibly difficult for us to have genuine conversations and an overwhelming feeling of sadness consumed us. The joy, the traditions, the magic, the spirit was gone. We were left with the want of celebrating with someone who could't be with us. How the hell were we going to do this?
I truly wish that we were the only people that have ever had to experience this pain. I'd wish it on no person. Unfortunately millions us of go through this each and every year. The holidays come without fail and everything we once knew and associated with the season is suddenly tuned upside down. Traditions look different, the meals are different, maybe there is one less person to buy for, who will cook this year, who's house do we gather at, the list goes on. Can you relate? Is this you? Let's see if we can offer some different ideas to help you navigate this season.
1. Don't pretend they didn't exist:
The dance people often do because they are uncomfortable is an awkward one for sure. Just because a name is no longer said, doesn't mean we have forgotten about that person. I hear it all the time " I don't want to upset them". I know this comes from a good place however, it feels so incredibly good to hear our loved ones name. Saying it won't offend or upset. If it does generate emotion, it's likely because you remembered and it feels so good to hear their name again. Trust me, we haven't forgotten our person and it's such a nice change to know that others haven't forgotten either.
2. Continue some traditions (even if it's uncomfortable for others):
Hang their Christmas Stocking, Light a candle in their memory, write the holiday letter to them . It's okay! Our daughter passed one month before her birthday. I still had a birthday party, we still had cake, it was sad and I'm 3 thousand percent sure my family thought I'd lost my marbles. 16 years later... they still show up on that day, we still have cake and we laugh, we cry but we continued our traditions and it brings us together every year on a day when having family around is super important. So the point of my story is, let them think you're off your rocker but do what you need to do to honor your person and help your heart.
3. Things are going to look different:
They will not be 100% the same. We had hopes, dreams and expectations that we had in our minds when it comes to our person. That's all been changed now. If it's too much to cook your holiday dinner, then change it up a little and order in Chinese food. If putting up all the decor is overwhelming, then choose your favorites and go with that. If you used to host the holiday events makes you want to vomit, ask someone to take over. Change is okay. Often times we put so much pressure on ourselves, to act like we have it all together. I give you permission to change it up. I give you permission to ask for help. I give you permission to be truthful with your family about how you're feeling. No need to add to your current stresses. It's okay to tell the truth about you.
4. Let's Talk Self Care
Going about business as usual during the holidays is tough for anyone, but adding a grieving heart can feel like the weight of a 100 elephants on your chest. Don't let the hustle rule you. Remember that your mental health is vital for your future. Take time away for yourself to recharge. Schedule that massage, read a book by the fire, have a night in with your closest friends, take a hot bath, go workout, enjoy a walk outside, and have an exit strategy in place if you need to leave the holiday work party. Putting up a front like all is well is exhausting, engage a little and also recharge.
5. Remember to Breathe:
We go go go go go go go and then.... ahhhhh! Did I even take a breath? The stress, the work, the people, the traffic, the heartache can all catch up to to us to fast that remembering to breath can add to the tension. When that overwhelming feeling hits, stop, close your eyes and breath deeply in through your nose, hold it for a second or two and release the breathe out through your mouth. Do it over and over again for a minute. Allow your body to slow down, bring your mind back to the present moment only focusing in on your breath. In through your nose... hold.... and out through your mouth. Try doing this every hour to help release some stress.
Here are some additional ways to cope during the holidays:
1. Volunteer in your persons name
2. Don't feel bad about skipping the holiday cards this year
3. Minimize gifts
4. Watch the booze
5. Remember crying is okay
6. Plan ahead
7. Be truthful about yourself in the moment
8. Remember not everyone will be grieving the same way you are
9. Make an ornament in honor of your person
10. Share stories about your person with family
11. Trust your gut as to what you need to do for your best health
12. Make a donation to charity in their name
13. Don't over-commit
14. Know what your triggers are
15. Enjoy yourself! The holidays can be tough but there is also love and joy
You can do this, if you ever have those moments that you are not going to make, reach out to a friend, family member, attend a grief group, call on your local church, just reach out. Your feelings are real, they are valid and you are worth it.
I'm so incredibly grateful you have chosen to spend this time read our blog. If you have found any value in this, please share with your friends and family, join our mailing list and "Like" our Facebook page. We LOVE having you in our community!