Holidays and Recent Loss

 In Resources

For many, the holidays are a happy time of the year.  The holidays are often a time spent with family and friends.  When a family has experienced a recent loss, the holidays can be especially trying.  Family get-togethers may be a reminder of a person who should be there but recently passed.  Holidays often go from being a joyous time to an emotional difficult time.

One thing to do to help make holidays more bearable, is to not put pressure on the holiday to be great.  For example, people often build up Christmas time especially, thinking this year will somehow be better than last year.  We go to multiple holiday parties, honor lifelong traditions, and shop for all the ones they love to find just the perfect gift.  Again, we put pressure on ourselves to make the holidays perfect.  It’s okay for this Christmas, this holiday party, this gift, to be less than perfect.  When you are missing someone important, just do the best you can, and give yourself permission to be less than perfect.

Sometimes the traditions we do every year become unbearable when an important member is no longer there.  It’s okay to skip or change some of the traditions to make them easier to bear.  What is the point of a tradition if it makes you miserable?

Holidays often make emotions you thought you had processed come back to the surface.  You may think you are handling a loss well, you may think you’ve cried all the tears you need to cry, but then holidays trigger those feelings again.  This is normal!  Things you may not expect to be painful, may trigger deep emotions.

When you know a holiday is coming up that may be difficult because of the loss of a loved one, it may be nice to do something to honor that person.  Making a donation in their memory, planting a tree in their honor, or volunteering for a charity that person found special are all ways to honor a person’s memory.  Doing these things may help that absence become more bearable.  It may help you feel close to the person you are missing most.

If you are crying daily, having difficulty leaving the house, or finding joy in things you once loved, the grief may be getting to be too much.  If you feel the level of your grief is getting unbearable, it may be time to talk to a professional.  A primary care physician or local psychiatrist may be able to prescribe an antidepressant or medication to help you get through the difficulties.  A licensed therapist may be able to help you work through the grieving stages, helping you process your feelings in a healthy way.  The holidays are often a time when we need extra help with our mental health.