If you have lost a loved one, the pain, sorrow, and loneliness you are experiencing will often intensify during the holidays. What was once so special and exciting now feels impossible or wrong. The joy of the people around you may even cause you to feel more isolated and alone. We hope that as you read through and practice these steps, you will find a peace that passes understanding. May the God who holds you in his hand, carry and comfort you through these next several weeks.
1. Take care of yourself physically. Holidays can be physically draining, especially if this is your first experience with a holiday since the death of your loved one. Respect your mind and your body. The acronym DEER (drink, eat, exercise, rest) may help you stay focused on taking care of yourself. Holidays take enough energy by themselves without the additional gut-wrenching pain of a death. Failing to take care of yourself physically will only add to your fatigue and frustration.
2. Think back to how you celebrated the holidays. What was your role in the celebration? How might that be different now that your loved one has died? Begin to consider how you might want to handle your traditional ways of celebrating this day following your beloved person’s death. If you have children (particularly dependent children) or others to consider when deciding how to celebrate the holiday, listen to what is important to them. Then see if you can incorporate their hopes or wishes into the celebration without compromising what you need.
3. This year you may merely try to survive the holidays – to get through them. That is okay, especially when you remember that the holidays come every year. You can skip them once (or twice) with the confidence that as you move through your grief you will have more energy to deal with the holidays the next time around.
4. Death puts things into perspective. Since the death of your loved one, many of the routine things that previously concerned you may mean almost nothing at all. Some of the festivities and all the hubbub of a particular holiday might seem ridiculous. This is understandable during the grieving process. Reassure yourself that eventually you can come to a new and deeper understanding of each special day.
5. Talk with others about the reality that your loved one has died and that therefore your life (and your celebrations) will feel and be different.
6. If you accept a holiday invitation to someone’s home, give yourself some leeway. Be up front with them when you accept the invitation, letting them know that you will try to participate but that you may well excuse yourself at some point. We suggest that you not host an event during the first year after a death. As a guest you can leave when you want to or even cancel at the last minute. You might also wish to consider making alternative plans that may feel more comfortable, as a back up.
7. Remember that a “something” attitude rather than an “all-or-nothing” attitude is a healthy way to approach many issues. You don’t have to do everything (or nothing) — you can do something, even if it is something small. Perhaps you could pick one activity you traditionally did on this occasion that has special meaning for you. Plan to do that activity again this year, to begin to face the pain of change – to accept the empty chair as part of your celebration.
Excerpted from The Empty Chair by Robert C. De Vries and Susan J. Zonnebelt-Smeenge www.newlifearticles.comThis article is reprinted with permission of New Life Ministries www.newlife.com