Dealing with the loss of a loved one is always difficult, but it can be especially hard during the holiday season. When we think of holidays, we often think of family and without our loved one, we can be left with many overwhelming feelings. During this designated time of celebration, we may feel anything but celebratory. Sadness, anger, anxiety, and loneliness are all a part of the grieving process that can add to this already stressful time of year. Whether our loved one has died recently or not, we may want to isolate and avoid the holidays altogether. While this reaction may be connected to the grieving process itself, isolating our grief can greatly increase feelings of depression.
It is essential to let yourself grieve. In doing so, surrounding yourself with support can be the best way to carry on. Chances are some of your support group will also be grieving and showing love for one another can be a way to honor the love you have for the one you lost. With that being said, put your needs first and manage your expectations. Don’t over exert yourself or agree to do too much this season. Lean on your support system to help you and delegate some of the responsibility (e.g., cooking, decorating and hosting).
Holidays carry many traditions with them and each family have their own. In the wake of a death, some may find comfort in these traditions as a way to hold onto the love connected to the past. For others, holiday traditions may be too painful to carry on and the starting of new traditions can brighten the holiday season. It can be a positive way to allow other members of the family to be included and turn our grief into a new beginning. The new tradition can be something completely different or it can be an act of remembrance.
If you need additional support, grief and bereavement groups can be helpful to feel comforted. Here at Olive Branch we work with Little Company of Mary who offers several great groups. To learn more about them visit this link: https://www.lcmh.org/index.cfm?pageID=203. For those of you not close to here, check out this link for more groups in the Chicagoland area: https://www.meetup.com/topics/grief-support/us/il/chicago/
Remember to allow yourself to grieve and put your needs first. You are not alone in your pain this season.
By: Kathryn Chambers
Olive Branch Counseling and Associates, Inc