Some of the most meaningful, poignant emails I receive and comments left on the blog are from Dear Readers who are grieving and dreading the holiday season. The messages come from all over the world reinforcing what you and I already know – grief is universal, and grief doesn’t take a break during the holidays.
So why the heck is grief so often misunderstood?
I wish I knew. I like to think our understanding about grief has come a long way. But it’s clear, we still have a ways to go.
Grief is not something to be fixed or a problem in need of a solution. It’s not something to get over. It’s natural. It’s part of life. It has no expiration date. It hurts. It’s messy. It makes people uncomfortable.
And it’s hard. Really hard.
For some, grief is even tougher during the holidays for obvious reasons. For others, ordinary days are hardest. And for most, of course, it likely makes no difference what day it is.
I wrote, Twelve Tips for Getting Through the Holidays After Loss, my first year of blogging not that long after my mother died from metastatic breast cancer. It continues to be one of my most-read posts. It’s not even my “favorite” grief post I’ve written, but knowing it’s helped a few grieving people out there is one of the reasons I’m still blogging, and blogging about grief, I might add.
I decided to make a few additions to those original twelve tips. I want to know what your tips are, so be sure to share with a comment.
Four tips that might help if you’re grieving this holiday season
1. Say no as often as you darn please and stop explaining yourself.
When you’re grieving, you might not want to attend gatherings or participate in events. It’s fine to say, no. And guess what? You don’t have to give a reason why you’re opting out. A simple no thank you (along with thanks for thinking of me) will do just fine. Really, it will.
2. If you do go out, feel free to leave early.
Sometimes you do have to push yourself and go to a family dinner or whatever. But just like going in the first place is up to you, deciding how long to stay is as well. Have a plan B (exit plan).
3. Focus on self-care and then reach out when you’re ready.
I know self-care is kind of a buzz word these days. There are lists, articles and books about it all over the place. Some of it is helpful. Some of it is crap. But self-care when you’re grieving really is important. Try to eat right, rest often and exercise at least a little.
Above and beyond those three basics of taking care of yourself, whatever self-care means to you, do that. Soothing yourself by curling up under a warm blanket or cuddling with your furry companion instead of going to a party you won’t enjoy anyway might be the best thing for you. Listening to music works wonders. Alone time isn’t a bad thing. (I love it.) Choosing to spend time with those who “get you” is vital.
Above all, be kind to yourself. Cut yourself some slack and stop beating yourself up for not doing whatever you think you’re supposed to be doing. Say goodbye to guilt.
When you feel up to it, (and you will) venture out. Volunteer. Go to a concert or movie. Sometimes just sitting with other people in a crowd is a good way to start venturing out. Go visit someone. You decide what feels right and doable. You get to decide your timetable.
4. Start a journal.
I cannot recommend this enough. Writing your thoughts and feelings down can really help. A journal allows you to “put your grief” somewhere. Literally. Need some motivation to get started? Read my twelve tips to journal your way through cancer, or anything.
There is no manual for grief – holidays or no holidays.
Eventually, you will likely enjoy the holidays again, but there will always be grief. There will be always be sadness.
Because you will always love and miss the person you grieve for.
And grief takes no pause for the holidays.
Here are a few more posts specifically about grief and the holidays. I hope they help.
I have quite a few other posts about grief on the blog, but I don’t want to overwhelm. When you’re grieving, feeling overwhelmed happens a lot, right?
If you’re grieving this holiday season, please remember you are not alone.
Others care about you. I care about you.
Who do you miss this holiday season (and every day, of course)?
Do you think grief is harder during the holidays or doesn’t the time of year or day matter?
Do you have a tip to add that might help someone?
If you think this post might help someone, please share it. Thank you.