When a loved one dies, everything shifts.
Holidays can be stressful at the best of times as we plan the details of our celebrations. When a loved one dies, everything shifts. Families may struggle with the expectations of a cheerful season when they suffer the pain of loss.
Whether this is the first holiday without your loved one, or if your loved one died during the holiday season, mourning changes your experience. Handling the holidays when grieving is difficult, but a thoughtful approach may ease the way
Humans have a range of emotions and little control over how these feelings come tumbling through our hearts. Moments of sadness may comingle with moments of love and humour. Remember, whatever you feel is perfectly normal for you.
As a family, you may decide to decline invitations for some events you usually enjoy. It is okay to withdraw when you aren’t feeling strong. In time you may resume these activities, perhaps with a fresh approach that reflects your new family reality.
If your children expect festivities to carry on as usual, it’s a good idea to talk honestly and sensitively about the impact of loss. Together, you can negotiate which traditions are important to the children and manageable for you.
It can bring comfort to spend time with family and friends who can be present with your grief, without judgment. Choose people who respect and support you.
And remember to take care of yourself. Exercise. Eat well. Rest. Family values and beliefs may shift in grief and family members may need time to reflect on changing perspectives.
A memorial may provide a welcome opportunity to honour your loved one. A community service or a private ceremony can offer an outlet for adults and children alike to express feelings of loss.
Help kids grieve
Children grieve too. They may respond to the loss of a loved one differently, depending on their developmental stage.
Very young children may not grasp the permanence of death. They may feel sadness as they sense the pain of the grown-ups around them. These feelings are likely to be fleeting and young children will be reassured if they can carry on with most of their usual routines, secure in the knowledge they will be cared for.
School-aged children have a better understanding of death. It can help to read picture books that provide simple, honest answers to many of the questions children ask about death.
Teens’ emotional and intellectual development allows them to think and feel very deeply about death. They may feel torn between their desire to be independent and their need for support after a loss. Let teens know they can talk to you or another trusted adult about their feelings.
Grief can feel like a heavy blanket, or it can arrive in unpredictable bursts of pain. Intense grief is a reflection of the deep love we have for the one we have lost. Trust yourself. In time your family will find a way to allow the joy of the season and the memories of your loved one to co-exist as the holidays roll around again.