The holiday season is upon us and it can be a very stressful, lonely time, and especially painful for those who are grieving the death of a loved one. It can feel dreadful for those who are experiencing their “first” holiday without their departed. For many others, you may have already had your “firsts,” but it may still feel that way because you were moving through a thick fog during that time.
Something catastrophic has happened to you. Someone you loved has died. Things are not the same and nor are the holidays. When you don’t feel joyful, trying to put on a happy face in order to please others is disrespectful to yourself. Because you are suffering a trauma, self care is the best gift you can give yourself.
Here are a few suggestions for self care during the holidays. Ask and answer some basic questions, such as:
- Do I want to be with family members and friends or will I feel more comfortable alone?
- Would I prefer to spend time with others who are going through the same loss because they understand what I’m going through and how I feel?
- Do I need to be comforted?
- Do I need to be distracted and busy doing something?
- Do I do nothing or just sit and cry?
- Am I able to function and take care of daily needs?
The answer to these questions can help you meet some of your needs and can direct your choices.
If you find it unbearable to be home for the holidays, perhaps visit a family member or a good friend. If you’re feeling adventurous, consider a little getaway. Just bear in mind that sometimes when you try to get away from your family during the holidays, being with others and their family can make you feel strange, lost, like you don’t belong, sadder and lonelier than you might have imagined.
Enlist a support system to help you from becoming too overwhelmed. Others may have expectations of you to perform traditional holiday rituals such as hosting, cooking, shopping and celebrating as normal. Delegate, defer, and if you’re unable to speak for yourself, ask a trusted and nurturing family member or friend to speak on your behalf, by saying you’re not up to it or that your heart isn’t in it this year.
Get yourself a phone buddy or two to check in once or twice daily. Sometimes the silence of being alone is deafening.
Join your temple, church or local community services for holiday events.
Spend time alone to honor your feelings. Take the time to feel your emotions, all of them, especially the ones you deem unacceptable. All of your feelings are valid. Being with yourself will give you the opportunity to reflect, process, adjust and eventually redefine what being alone means to you and what you will make of your life. Ultimately, you will find that you are the gift you give to yourself.