Grief. The word holds a heavy weight at a time of joyous festivity and lights. Family and friends often cannot understand the need to skip the tradition of gathering at one house, bustling with happy children and family and friends. Coping with raw emotions that may feel like molasses or a tidal wave can feel debilitating and overwhelming. It’s perfectly okay to spend Christmas in a quieter environment with just a few loved ones, perhaps, or alone.
Just Say, “No!”
Normalcy is ideal on most days, except special occasions, events, and especially significant holidays. It’s okay to eliminate putting up the tree and other decorations. No one expects Christmas cards or the usual smells of baked goods emanating from the home. This year, it’s perfectly acceptable to take a break from tradition and engage in activities that provide comfort. Reach out and share your wishes early. It’s essential for family and friends not to challenge the request, but agree.
Plan a Get-Away
A change of scenery can bring inspiration and well-needed reflection. Traveling to the mountains or the beach for an overnight trip or spending a few days visiting several different destinations can bring some solace and a retreat from exhaustion. Escaping pain, even for a short time, often helps.
Honor Your Loved One
Grievers need to say their loved ones name out loud; sharing and hearing stories brings the person to the present. Choose a time and a location to gather, light a candle, and share fond memories. Each person can prepare a way to honor their loved one, whether by poem, story, or artwork. These “normal” moments are well-needed and therapeutic.
A Place of Comfort
A house interior has too many memories, but there is a great spirit to be found among the sky, trees, wind, and flying creatures, like butterflies and dragonflies. Grievers can find a peaceful calm if such a place exists outdoors. In a secluded area, consider creating a place to sit and pray. It may include a bench, plants, and a lantern. In moments when grievers feel the need to connect with their loved ones, a quiet space is steps away!
Connect with Other Grievers
Sometimes a room full of people can feel quite lonely. Grievers often believe they alone hold the burden of a heavy sadness that few understand. It is a gift to meet another person who has a similar story, and together grievers can confirm feelings, identify what is their “new” normal,” and build well-needed connections. Only grievers know if they are ready or want to attend a therapy group. (Ask for help in finding a group to suit your needs.)
Exhaustion consumes the body and triggers waves of anxiety and potentially new symptoms. Many grievers choose to ignore their body’s blatant signals and focus on getting through moment by moment. It’s encouraging when a griever decides to share problems, such as frequent panic attacks, insomnia, or energy loss. It is the initial call for help that a Band-Aid cannot fix. Start talking about solutions to help during those moments and recommend scheduling an appointment with a doctor. By listening and remaining available, family and friends can help to mend a broken heart.
Grievers need to actively engage in self-care moments by stopping, closing their eyes, and taking deep breaths. While the world moves at a significant speed, grievers discover their own pace. Reminders, such as “Be gentle with yourself” and “It’s okay to cry!” reaffirm a griever’s need to feel normal.
Be patient, family and friends. Sometimes, a quiet Christmas brings peace!