The holidays are supposed to be a time of love and cheer, but for those dealing with grief, tragedy and loss, this time of year can be a reminder of what’s missing in our lives. I know those feelings all too well. After losing a loved one, the first Christmas, the first holiday, is especially sad. Its like navigating a ship by yourself and not knowing how to steer it. After my husband died, that first Christmas, would have been more painful and lonely if I didn’t come out of my comfort zone and try to live a little.
As isolating as it might feel, if you’re struggling this season, you are not alone. There are ways to make your own memories and enjoy the holidays, even when things are less than ideal. Here are the ways I’ve gotten through the holidays and even enjoyed them while coping with grief.
Try a Change of Scenery – Go Somewhere New
Traveling to a new city or a new country over the holidays can be rejuvenating. Whether its visiting with family or friends a change of scenery can be therapeutic. There are so many exciting things that take place around the holidays and especially, New Years Eve. While its hard to truly let go and have fun while you’re grieving – even a small distraction can be a blessing! That first holiday after my husband died, I spent with family in New York City. Not only is New York City vibrant and alive, shopping in Manhattan with my best friend, looking at the lights at night, and exchanging gifts with family and friends was very special. It was a very welcome distraction.
If you’re thinking of taking a long vacation in 2018 or even a sabbatical that can also provide a way to get away from it all. There are many ways to take a sabbatical and make it really beneficial both professionally and emotionally. I wrote about doing that here. I have done this before and taking a sabbatical was a healing journey and I learned many life lessons. I even learned how to travel on less than $10 a day in premium-priced, tropical Jamaica.
Take a Break From Social Media
Social Media can be a never ending vortex of selfies and partying that sucks us in to to the point of no return. Comparing yourself to others is never a good idea, but it’s a lot harder to avoid when everyone’s posting endless happy moments with their families via every social media platform. Scrolling through Instagram is a daily reminder of the fact that (it seems like) everyone else is cooking, baking, watching movies, and partaking in general family holiday merriment. If you find yourself resentfully scrolling through social media, sign off for a few days or remember that a) No one has a perfect life and b) Things can and will change.
Enjoy Your Hobbies – Even During the Holidays
Hobbies and activities that you enjoy are a great way of connecting with family and friends. Hobbies give you a way to take your mind off the stressors of everyday life, as well as the grief. They allow you to relax and seek pleasure in activities that aren’t associated with work, chores or other responsibilities.
Reach Out To Others In Need
When you’re in a state of bliss, you tend to see happiness all around you, even in the mundane. However, when you’re in a state of grief, you realize how much pain and sorrow there is. After my husband died, I heard so many stories about other young men who died suddenly, leaving behind young families. I realized that my own healing would come by reaching outward not inward. The holidays are a special time of giving, remembering those around is in need can also be healing.
Think of the positive
You can’t let a few days change the way you look at your life, so use this time to reflect on the good in your life. Reflect on what you’ve accomplished this year and make a list of things you’re hopeful for in the new year too. Your life may not feel perfect, but that’s how it goes, and surely you can find a silver lining or two.
Know that it’s okay to grieve during the holidays
Whether you’re spending the holidays with family members or alone in your apartment, just accept that this is where you’re at right now, and know that it’s okay to be sad. It often seems as if almost everyone on Instagram is living the perfect episode of the Housewives of Beverley Hills, and when your situation is less than ideal, it can feel extremely isolating. Let yourself feel those feelings of loss and grief, and as difficult as it may be, try to let yourself enjoy the things you love most about this time of year.
Over the past few years, I’ve cherished those moments I’ve spent with my parents and my children, even in the absence of my spouse. I’ve been so lucky to have them around to comfort me and to walk with me through those less than ideal moments. Even though the grief and loss has been bittersweet, and probably always will be, I have accepted those feelings, and with the steps I’ve listed and staying present and grateful, I’ve been able to enjoy this time too.