Dr. Nat McParland, Annette Murphy, and June Dunn lost loved ones in the past few weeks and we pray to ease their pain this holiday season. This time of year can be so difficult. Even if your loss didn’t come around a holiday, even if this isn’t the first holiday since your loved one’s passing, it is very common to relive the grief, feeling as raw as you did on the first day of your loss. At best, holiday time is bittersweet, but we can try to dilute the grief by generating joy.
Pull out pictures from happier times. Looking at old pictures can help you re-connect with loved ones as they were in happier times, before illness changed them, and before either illness, or accident took them away from you.
Do the things you used to do. Follow your family’s holiday traditions, remembering what your loved one would have said, or done. If Dad liked to haggle with the tree salesman, buy your tree from that same lot. If Mom sang her favorite Christmas carols as she decorated her tree, sing those songs as you decorate yours. Cook the dishes Auntie used to cook.
Reminisce with other family members. This is a great time to host a pot-luck tree-trimming party; invite friends and relatives, and encourage have everyone to tell their favorite “Uncle Charlie” stories. Sharing these memories can help all of you re-experience a little of the joy you once had in that relationship.
Make new memories. Sometimes it is just too painful to be in the same places, and do the usual activities without your loved ones. Maybe this is the year to do something entirely different: serve Christmas dinner at a homeless shelter, spend the day in your own movie festival, visit out-of-town relatives, join a tour to the Grand Canyon, or take a cruise.
Whatever you do, whether you travel, or stay at home, whether you maintain old traditions, or forge new ones, the key to making it through the holidays is: DO NOT isolate yourself. It is so easy to slide into depression (calls to behavioral health hotlines swell during the holidays.) To avoid this, admit that you will be especially vulnerable around the holidays and plan ahead. Schedule time with your family and friends. If you don’t feel like chit- chatting at parties, invite people to join you for a Christmas concert, or one of the blockbuster movies that come out around the holidays.
I don’t mean that you should never be alone. You will need alone time to process grief successfully. If you try to ignore it, grief may harden, become concentrated, and come back to bite you. This can cause a holiday crash, or wait to ruin hopes for the New Year.
Also, take time to be kind to yourself. Get a massage; get your hair and nails done; read a book; watch “White Christmas” for the millionth time, and don’t beat yourself up when tears come. This is a poem that wrote itself through me several years ago after a I suffered a big loss.
Tears are window-washer fluid for the soul.
God gives them when things look most bleak,
So you can see up, out, away into the future
And know that HE is still there.
The key to living through holiday grief is to sprinkle solitude between blocks of time that connect you with people. Be mindful of your grief, but also generate joy by sharing with loved ones who are still here, and enjoying loving memories of the ones who’ve gone on.
INFORMATIONAL THOUGHTS ON THURSDAY- Memories of my dad and more recipes.