"I thought I was doing much better. The pain had subsided; I could laugh
again. I was beginning to spend time with my friends. My eating and sleeping patterns were
back to normal. Then, I had to face my first holiday without him. I felt the familiar
effects of grief wash over me and it was just like the healing process had never even
Holidays. They can be the most joyous or the most painful days of the year, depending
on how, and if, youre prepared for them. Holidays are especially difficult if
youve recently lost the love of another person through death. By planning ahead,
however, and dealing realistically with your holiday expectations, you can help ensure
your days are filled with peaceful satisfaction rather than painful sadness. Holidays
arent just "something to be gotten through." They should be a time for
rejuvenation and reflection.
Whether this holiday season is the first or the 40th, youve faced since losing a
loved one, there are some special considerations you need to think about while making your
holiday plans. The first years after the loss of a loved one are the most difficult, and
it is these days this booklet focuses on.
Notice in the sentence above, it says: "the first years" are the most
difficult. Not the first hours, the first days, or the first months, but the first years.
It is important for you to realize that your loss is going to require an adjustment in
your life. This is especially true around the holidays.
Traditions may change, the amount of entertaining you do will likely be altered, and
your celebrations may be somewhat tempered. Before reading any further, it is important to
accept and admit this to yourself. If you can do this, you are halfway to the point of
being able to enjoy peaceful and pain-free holidays.
Initially, the most difficult part about facing a holiday, or an entire holiday season,
is the fear about how awful the day is going to be. Often, the anticipation prior to the
event is worse than the day itself due to the worry about surviving the occasion. Looking
ahead and imagining what the day will be like tends to intensify any feelings of grief
because were reminded of the lost love.
Holidays also are a means of marking the passage of time, and that too can be a painful
Writing down your fears in advance of a holiday will help you express your feelings.
When writing, be entirely honest with yourself; it will help you gain control over your
feelings. Clarifying your thoughts will help you feel less overwhelmed, especially when
you begin to view the holiday as being made up of many small events rather than endless
commitments and demands.
Actively participating in holiday activities, instead of thinking about what used to
be, is a good way to begin your "holiday healing." By planning ahead,
youll have a grasp of what you do and do not want to do. This will prevent you from
having to make decisions under pressure and give you the strength to say no if necessary.
Also, by being well-organized, youll enable yourself to limit the amount of activity
you plan while using your time most efficiently during the holiday(s). Youll be able
to build "quiet time" into your schedule without resenting having too much to do
in a short period of time.
Holidays are naturally demanding- whether youve lost a loved one or not. They
usually require entertaining or being entertained, shopping, commitments to spend time
with family and friends, extra housework and cooking, etc.
If youre invited to do something youd rather not do, be tentative in giving
your answer. An honest but brief explanation of how youve been feeling lately will
be understood and will allow you flexibility. Simply tell your host or hostess that some
days are better than others since your loss, and if youre feeling up to it,
youd love to attend. This way, no firm commitment has been made, yet you still have
the opportunity to enjoy the company of friends if you desire. This also allows you to
observe realistic limits in your routine.
You may find that getting into the "holiday spirit" is difficult for you this
year. Thats okay. If youre not ready to celebrate this year, dont. If
you have small children, however, youll need to discuss any holiday changes with
them so that they dont feel punished or confused. If they are also suffering from a
loss, a traditional family celebration might be good for them. Chances are, even if you
dont feel up to it, youll be able to count on family members to help make the
holiday as "normal" as possible for your children. If you need help, discuss it
in advance with members of your family so that the day will run smoothly.
Decorating for the holidays, although it may seem like more work than it is worth, will
bring warmth into your home and should not be avoided. If purchasing and decorating a tree
seems overwhelming to you, let your children, other family members, neighbors or friends
help you. Theyll provide valuable companionship and help make the project a special
event rather than a chore. Once the decorating is done, youll be happy to have the
seasonal reminder that life is continuing on and so must you.
If you find yourself alone for the holidays, take advantage of the time and pamper
yourself. Get a book youve wanted to read, write letters that are overdue, treat
yourself to a special meal, or call a friend who may also be alone. Being alone does not
necessarily mean being lonely though, and you may find you enjoy the time to think and
reflect. If you know in advance that you dont want to be by yourself, plan not to
be. It may mean calling family or friends and suggesting a special holiday activity, but
its a way for you to let them know youd like to spend time with them.
Fellowship with others often is the best medicine for a grieving heart.
Regardless of how many commitments you have over the holidays, the most important thing
to remember is to keep things simple. Say no to invitations youd rather not accept,
and dont be afraid to express your feelings. If you want to cry, do. If you need to
talk about how you are feeling, do. If you want to be alone, its okay as long as you
continue to reach out to others on occasion.
Above all, take the time necessary to be in touch with your feelings and expectations
and react accordingly. If you do, youll find youre actually enjoying the
holidays rather than just coping with them.
Ways to Enjoy the Holidays