“It’s the most wonderful time, of the year…” or so goes the holiday classic. For those who have lost a loved one however, it can be an especially painful or difficult time. While many are going home to visit family, or out shopping in all the hustle and bustle, the grieving parent, child, spouse or friend may see nothing but painful reminders of their loss. There are several ways to help comfort and ease the difficulty during the holiday season:
1. Talk about your feelings! It’s okay to be sad, even when others are not. Opening up with safe and supportive family and friends can be a great way to cope. Also talking with your pastor, a counselor or attending a grief support group can be especially helpful. (Compassionate Friends and Hospice Alive are two organizations that offer free grief support groups nation-wide)
2. Make a plan to honor your loved one. There are many ways to do this- anything from watching their favorite Christmas movie, to lighting a candle at the dinner table, to hanging a special ornament on the tree can all help you feel connected to that person. Don’t be afraid to say their name, to reflect on happy holiday memories spent with that person or look at old photos. While those things may often bring tears, they can also bring comfort.
3. Give yourself permission to change your usual traditions. It’s ok to not go out in crowds if that feels overwhelming. It’s ok to skip putting out all the decorations you normally would. It’s ok to cook less. During times of grief, it’s most important to take good care of yourself. Over-scheduling and pressure are especially hard to handle, so eliminate everything that is draining, and make time for comforting and resting.
4. Do spend time with loved ones. While over-scheduling is not good, isolating can lead to depression. Many grieving individuals find it helpful to create a support team of two to three people who call and visit, and whom you can call anytime you need to talk. Often friends and family don’t know how to help when someone is grieving. There are probably several people in your life who have said “If you need anything, let me know.” Ask them to be a support person. Ask them to call you every few days and tell them you might need to call them just to cry or talk.
5. Make sure you are eating and sleeping. We often have trouble with sleep and appetite during times of grief. Melatonin is a supplement used for sleep that can be helpful. Eating several small meals can help if you simply don’t feel hungry. If needed, talk to your doctor about some medication for sleep.
6. Spend time in prayer, reading your Bible and worship. Remember that God cares for you! It’s ok to feel angry with God during grief, but don’t allow that feeling to keep you from Him. God can offer comfort that no other person can. He experienced the loss of His own son Jesus and can empathize with your pain. The Bible says, “God is close to the broken-hearted…” (Psalm 34:18). It also says that “He heals the broken hearted…” (psalm 147:3)
Remember that there is no way to remove the pain of grief. There is a path to move through the pain however. It is a season that will one day pass as you continue to take good care of yourself and receive comfort from others and God. “Weeping may last for a night, but rejoicing will come in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)
Written by Debi Russell, BA Pastoral Counselor at Branches Counseling Center