Managing the Holidays Following Loss
As a caregiver, you may not only be managing the care of a loved one this season, but may be facing the season following a significant loss. The death of a dear individual is only one example of life event that has the potential to make the season seem not so "merry and bright" - a family trauma, illness, divorce, relocation or job loss can illicit many of the same painful emotions as grief over the passing of a loved one.
Barnabas Health Home Care and Hospice offers these suggestions for managing the season:
- Take care of yourself. Grief can be exhausting. Eating nutritious foods, getting enough sleep and exercising are natural stress relievers.
- Accept that you may not be able to accomplish the same things you have in years past. For example, preparing a large meal, shopping and decorating may feel overwhelming. Ask yourself, "Is this something I can reach out to someone else to handle?"
- Be flexible and open to new ways of celebrating the season. Going out to dinner when you typically eat at home, or having a gathering at a new location, can help create new traditions and relieve the anxiety of thinking about how you will manage to get through the "way things always were." Let people know you would like to be flexible with the time you arrive and when you leave, as you will not know until then how you will feel.
- The emotions that accompany loss can be consuming and draining. Consider limiting some of your commitments and shopping early or online to avoid crowds.
- Give yourself permission to grieve. Many times the season pressures us into the cultural expectation that we should only feel joy or happiness during the holidays. Recognize that this is unrealistic and it is acceptable to feel and express sadness and pain over your loss. It's ok not to be in the holiday spirit.
- Prepare for emotional moments. It is normal to have difficult, intense and unpredictable emotions despite preparing yourself. Surround yourself with people who allow you to express these feelings and offer support.
- When you find yourself saying, "I'd rather skip the holidays," keep in mind the importance of not isolating yourself. Negative self-talk can take over. It's important to establish a healthy balance of privacy, to allow yourself to reflect and grieve, but you also need to interact with people who can distract you from the intense pain you are experiencing.
- Don't forget to cherish the memories. Finding gratitude in the life you shared with your loved one is important to healing. Memories bring strong emotions. Over time, as you heal, these thoughts become precious and may bring joy for the life you shared.