The loss of a loved one is a major event in anyone’s life. It is a defining moment. It is an experience that can only be fully understood by someone who has experienced the loss of a loved one. It is a day when time stands still. A time when you might question your faith, the purpose of life, and the question “Why God?” may ring constantly in your ears. “Will I ever become normal again? Will I ever find something to laugh or smile about? How can I possibly go on? I don’t want to celebrate holidays because it is just too painful.”
All these feelings and thoughts are perfectly normal and almost expected. It is important that you know that everyone grieves very differently. It is harmful to compare your grieving process or allow others to compare your grieving process to theirs or others. Grief looks very different for each person and even for each loss you experience.
As we draw closer to the holidays, you might be wondering how you are going to make it through and may even be thinking of not celebrating. Holidays can be very painful and a lonely time because you may feel like no one understands and no one even remembers.
Here are a few helpful tips to survive the holidays:
1. Do not fight the feelings of grief and the process of grieving. Prepare for an onrush of sadness, joy, guilt and longing for the presence of your loved one. You may have intense feelings or a moment of sadness. Whatever feeling you experience, don’t fight it and don’t apologize for it. Allow yourself to feel the pain; it’s a healthy part of your recovery. Give your friends and family notice that you may not feel like doing anything or you may withdraw yourself from the festivities or shed tears unexpectedly. Be honest about how you feel. Don’t feel the need to be pretend like you are not hurting.
2. Spend time with friends and family that will allow you to reminisce and share memories of your loved one.
3. Give yourself permission to begin new traditions. Sometimes it’s helpful to start new traditions and ways of celebrating the holidays. This can include a different location, change in decorations, menu, etc. Be creative and possibly include a small part that will always remind you of your loved one.
4. Do something to honor the memory of your loved one. This can include serving at a local food pantry or soup kitchen. It can even be a monetary donation to charity that was important to your loved one.
5. Do what YOU feel like doing. Don’t overschedule yourself or accept invitations out of guilt. If you feel like being alone, do it but don’t allow yourself to get into despair. Have someone you can reach out to if you have feelings of despair. If you want to spend the day in pajamas and read a book or watch movies, do it.
6. Take time to worship with others. Though you may not feel like it, going to church can help you remember where your source of strength comes from. It can be a reminder to hope in God again, to know that God will never leave you He and comforts you in times of grief. The Holy Spirit is our Comforter; we can run to Him. We can open our hearts to Him and allow Him to touch us in that area that hurts.
7. Remember the day will come to an end. Holidays are not forever. Just plan how you will survive the holidays.
Here are some scriptures that you can meditate upon in the grieving process:
Psalms 23:4 (NLT) – Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me.
Psalm 27:13-14 (NKJV)
I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. 14 Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!
Jeremiah 31:13 (NKJV)
“Then shall the virgin rejoice in the dance, And the young men and the old, together;
For I will turn their mourning to joy, Will comfort them, And make them rejoice rather than sorrow.
Psalm 34:6 (NLT)
In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles.
Matthew 5:4 (NIV)
Blessed are those who mourn, For they will be comforted.
Psalm 147:3 (NKJV)
He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds.
Psalm 119:28 (NKJV)
My soul melts from heaviness; Strengthen me according to Your word.
1 Peter 4:12-14 (NKJV)
Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NKJV)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.
Written by Fiona Arthurs, ALMFT & Clinical Director