Getting through the holidays after a loss
December 1, 2017
After the death of a family member, the holiday season can be particularly tough. Here are some pointers to keep in mind.
Family get-togethers will be different
·Be honest with each other about your feelings. Share your concerns, feelings, apprehensions, etc. with a relative or friend as the holiday approaches. Tell them that this is a difficult time for you. Accept their help. You will appreciate their love and support at this time.
· Sit down with your family and decide what you want to do for the holiday season.
Set realistic expectations for yourself or the day. If you wish things to be the same, you are going to be disappointed.
· Do things a little differently. Undertake only what each family member can handle comfortably.
· Give yourself and everyone else permission to feel less than perfect. Recognize that the holiday isn’t “ruined” just because someone gets angry or upset. Your family is simply doing what it’s always done – acting like a family.’
· Expect the holidays to serve as quality time for relationships. You can’t heal all wounds, grief or losses, but the holiday can be a meaningful time of caring and love.
There is no right or wrong way to handle the day
· Be open, and respond positively to change in other family members. Some may wish to follow family traditions, while others may choose to change.
· Try to be flexible about the way things are done.
· Build some change into family rituals or create new rituals.
· Recognize that no one can live up to our expectations for a holiday. Most of us carry around a heavily romanticized picture of the holiday and feel we must relentlessly convey warmth, brightness and good feeling. It’s not possible!
· Keep in mind the feelings of your children and family members. Try to make the holiday season as joyous as possible for them.
· Recognize how difficult and important holidays are to kids.
It is better to do what is most helpful for you and your family.
· Be careful of “should.” If a situation looks especially difficult over the holidays, don’t get involved if possible.
· Plan for the difficult moments.
· Set limitations. Realize that it isn’t going to be easy.
· Do the things that are very special and/or important to you.
· Once you have made the decision on the role you and your family will play during the holidays, do plan to be with the people you enjoy.
· Know what you choose to do the first year, this year. You don’t have to do next year.
· This will be emotionally, physically and psychologically draining. Try to get enough rest.
Nathan Rogers is the Bereavement Coordinator for Providence Hospice in Anchorage.