Holiday seasons elicit many feelings for people. Holidays may create togetherness, warmth, and gratitude; but in the eyes and hearts of a griever, holidays may create the exact opposite sensations. Grieving hearts are put under pressure by society, family, and friends to grieve in a uniformed manner that may not be the most suitable for their needs. There is not a manual on how to grieve, especially during the holiday season. Most of the time, people are trying “to get through” or “survive the holiday season” when grieving. It doesn’t matter if it has been days, weeks, months, or years since the death; it is mentally, physically, and emotionally exhausting to prepare for a holiday with a piece of your heart missing.
As we prepare for the upcoming holiday season, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Really listen to yourself. When grieving, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the opinions and guidance of others because you are so desperately wanting to do everything right for you and your child to enjoy the holiday as much as possible. During this holiday season, listen to yourself and be attuned to your needs and your child’s needs. You and your child may grieve very differently, so following through with listening to both your needs and your child’s will be important in order to avoid exhaustion and stress. If you and your child are wanting to make plans this holiday season, create plans. If this year is feeling like a struggle, create boundaries by saying yes and no to what plans feel most comfortable.
- Make time to implement self-care. The idea of creating time to participate in self-care may seem like a dream or a myth in parenthood, but it doesn’t have to be. Self-care doesn’t have to be lavish or expensive to recharge. Self-care can simply be an activity that promotes physical, emotional, spiritual, and/or psychological wellness. Some examples of self-care are: calling a friend, reading a book, taking a walk, drinking a glass of water, being outside in nature, journaling, etc. To determine where you are feeling most depleted, take a moment and ask yourself, what is missing from my day and how can I boost my well-being.
- Try creating a new tradition. In the midst of grief, many families wonder, how do I incorporate my loved one during the holidays? This question can be answered as a family or as individuals. Oftentimes, after a significant death has impacted a family, family members band together and create a new tradition in order to honor their loved one. Some families will light a candle in memory of their loved one, visit the gravesite, set a table setting for their loved one, create side dishes or meals their loved one enjoyed, or will share favorite memories of their loved one around the table. Again, when deciding what to do this holiday season, there is no right or wrong way to celebrate and include your loved one. It is ultimately up to you and your child’s comfort level.
- Here is one activity idea for remembrance: Create a conversation jar. This activity has been implemented at The WARM Place and found helpful and comforting to families. To create a jar, you just need a few supplies: strips of paper, a small mason jar, and desired items to decorate the jar.
- First take time to decorate the the outside of the jar together. You can use pictures of your loved one, stickers, colored paper, or anything else you want that reminds you of your loved one.
- Next, work with your child to brainstorm different questions regarding your loved one. Examples of questions may be: What was your loved one’s favorite food? What was your favorite activity with your loved one? What would you say to your loved one if you had the opportunity? You can also think about any memories or things you miss about your loved one. For example: I miss my loved one’s dark brown eyes, their smile, and playing catch in the backyard together.
- After you have thought of some memories and questions, write them down on the strips of paper and place them in the jar.
- When you are ready to use the jar, simply take turns pulling out the strips of paper and answering the questions or reflecting on memories. This is a great way to create conversation about your loved one and take time to remember them.
As you enter the holiday season, be mindful of the needs of yourself and your children. This may be a time of firsts for your family as you discover where your grief tolerances lie. Grief can be like a wave, which may be unpredictable at times. Don’t feel discouraged if activities or remembrance ideas don’t go according to plan. Reframe your thinking and know that you are continually growing and evolving in your grief. Grief is not a one size that fits all; it is a custom fit for you and your level of coping and needs.