Embrace a balance
No matter what you do, you are going to be overwhelmed by emotions during your first holiday season after a loss. It’s okay to let the emotions come. Talk about how you feel with your family and children; they are probably experiencing their own painful feelings. But don’t let it be the only topic of conversation around your holiday table.
Aldrich says it’s important to find a balance between the two. Don’t exclude the remembrance of your loved one just because you think it might be awkward; but don’t overdo it, either.
“Trying to keep your emotions bottled up inside can lead to a major meltdown,” advises Aldrich. “Remember that grief never fits into a neat timetable. No matter how prepared you think you are, or how much of your life you may have rebuilt, grief can still bowl you over at any time. Just don’t let it be the focus of every holiday celebration.”
Replace the sting of loss with the joy of giving
Despite the festive spirit of the holiday season, you may find yourself focusing on what you don’t have. Instead, Aldrich suggests embracing the season by caring for others, such as your children, grandchildren and friends.
“Consider giving a donation to your favourite charity,” Aldrich says, adding: “Or you can adopt a family and provide them with a wonderful holiday.
“If you can’t afford a donation, consider donating time to the local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Giving to charity makes you feel good, and you can give in honour of your loved one.”
Give yourself the gift of counselling
Depression during the grieving process can often lead to a feeling of hopelessness and despair, and individual counselling or a support group can help you get through. There is no shame in seeking support.
“I went to grief counselling after the loss of my father many years ago,” Aldrich says. “That’s when I found out how vital to the healing process it can be. There was something very comforting about interacting with a group of people who had also lost their fathers. It helps to know that you are not alone, that there are other people that are suffering painful memories, too.”
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
The holidays are full of emotion, memories and gatherings with people. The combination can be overwhelming — and for many, the burden is just too much to bear.
Watch out for any — conscious or unconscious — harmful tendencies. If you feel any suicidal urges, call a friend or family member, your counsellor or 911.
Aldrich warns: “If you feel as though you are slipping into a dangerous place, ask for help immediately.
“Keep reminding yourself that your loved one wouldn’t want you to be sad, or do anything self-destructive.”
“There is a ray of light at the end of the holiday tunnel,” concludes Aldrich. “Each one that passes will be a little easier.”
New traditions will become cherished over time, and precious memories can still bring joy.