For most, the holidays are a time of joy, cheer and time with family, but for those who have lost a loved one, the empty chair by the fireplace or one less present under the Christmas tree can be a painful reminder of the one who is missing.
"There are so many traditions associated with the holiday season that it can be an emotional roller coaster for someone who has recently lost a loved one," Nancy Kiel, bereavement coordinator for Loyola University Health System, said in a statement. "Many people wish they could just fast-forward through the holidays, but getting through the season is possible if you give yourself permission to be flexible."
Kiel says that while there may be difficult moments during the holidays, there are a few things a person can do to make the holidays seem a little brighter:
- People should discuss holiday plans with family and know that it's fine to change traditions.
- Try to avoid going to malls because Christmas shopping can be stressful even when not coping with grief.Think about shopping online or giving gift cards to avoid the mall madness.
- Keep in mind that you can reject party invitations. Social gatherings can be more difficult this time of the year. RSVP at a later date if you want to give yourself some time to think things over.If you do decide to go to the party, drive or get yourself there because this will allow you the freedom to leave at your own discretion.
- Avoid "should people" who say: "You should do this or you should do that."
- Honor and think about your loved one. Start a new ritual to remember the things about the person you've lost like lighting a special candle, encourage people at the dinner table to share their favorite memory about your loved one, try doing your loved one's favorite holiday activity or something that you know would make them happier.
- Be nice to yourself by taking a nap when you feel like it, soaking up in a bubble bath, exercising, or writing down your thoughts.
Kiel said that mourning is difficult and exhausting, but it something that needs to be done.
"If you put it on a back burner, you'll never heal. You can't go around, over or under grief - you have to go through it. So find someone who will listen unconditionally and tell your story," she said.