Surviving Holidays During Difficult Times
It's that time of year again, so highly anticipated by children and equally dreaded by those who have experienced the recent loss of a loved one. The first year following a loss is the most difficult. It is also normal to experience intensified feelings of loss, through the coming years, on special days and holidays.
Emotions that can be avoided the rest of the year, can become unbearable during the holiday season. Feelings of sadness can be intensified by having no help with the Christmas tree, or when signing only one name on your holiday cards.
Family traditions are usually established based on family members' roles and beliefs around holidays. After losing a loved one, although you may want to carry on the same traditions, some will not be able to be carried out in the same way.
As difficult as holiday times might be, this can be a good time to think about starting a few new traditions. You may want to draw straws to determine the new turkey carver, change the menu of foods, serve buffet style, rotate who hosts the holiday, change the meal time, or celebrate a week earlier. It is also acceptable to set a place for your absent loved one and share the humorous times and memories as comfort allows.
For others, it may be too painful to plan a family dinner knowing there will be a chair missing at the table. Making plans to go out to dinner, rent a cabin, take a vacation, drive to Lake Tahoe, or spend the day feeding the homeless may help make the holidays less painful.
There is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays, while in the grieving process. Talking over your needs with family members, allowing others to help you and helping other family members through this difficult time can be very rewarding.
During one of my more difficult holiday times, I did not feel like shopping for gifts. I also had a great need to give something to others in a more meaningful way. I decided to learn to paint ceramics. I spent hours painting holiday music boxes and ornaments, which I gave to family members and close friends.
Today, I still see my ornaments on Christmas trees and hear the chimes from the music boxes. I have truly learned the value of a handmade gift. You may have some special talents you can put to good use, making gifts for your family or others in the community.
Many new volunteers are recruited during difficult holiday times, when grieving family members are looking for ways to make the holidays more meaningful. There are many community programs that reach out to those less fortunate, desperately in need of volunteer help.
Becoming involved in helping others, helps put life in perspective. No matter how bad we feel our life is, there is always someone who is suffering more than we are. Reaching out also helps us focus on others, giving us a rest from our own emotional discomfort.
Even if you are unable to leave your home, there are ways you can help yourself and others. Making telephone calls to solicit toy, food or gift donations, wrapping gifts for toy drives, baking, knitting scarves, or addressing Christmas cards for those who can no longer write are a few ways you can help.
By contacting local nonprofit organizations, service organizations or senior centers, you can learn about many ways your time, money and/or services can be put to use.
Joining in on the holiday activities by helping others will not only help relieve some of the loneliness and stress you may be experiencing, but it will also help those less fortunate have a happier holiday season.