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7 Tips for Surviving the Holidays After a Loss

7 Tips for Surviving the Holidays After a Loss

December 20, 2010

Entering the holiday season after a loss or change in family dynamics can be an emotional adjustment or filled with obstacles to allow celebration. Often taking the first step is difficult. You find it difficult to decorate the tree, or even shop for other loved ones. You may feel hesitance or some guilt for being able to experience the holiday seasons and your loved one cannot. I have gathered a few ideas that may help you usher in the season that has meaning and even enjoyment.

For me, the holidays officially begin at Thanksgiving and continue through the New Years celebrations. I am a Christian so I celebrate Christmas. Others reading may celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or other celebratory festivities. Loss is universal, and so is the pain and feelings associated with the loss. People experience loss differently, but I have found with my experience as a nurse for over 20 years, entering the holiday season is usually awkward or even dreaded especially the first year after the loss of a loved one.

I remember when my son was in Iraq my husband and I had our 25th Wedding Anniversary. My other children wanted to celebrate but I could not do this with my son in Iraq. I felt like I didn’t have the right to celebrate when he was going through what he was going through in the war. That year at Christmas I had a hard time putting up the Christmas tree or even buying presents because I just didn’t know how to celebrate the holidays and didn’t want to until he was home safe and sound. Although my son came home alive (and I am very blessed and thankful for this because I know many others did not), I felt a sense of loss and guilt that I was celebrating and he was fighting for his life and ours. That year I did manage to find the strength to put up the tree, and enjoy Christmas with my husband, children, and grandchildren. We celebrated again when he returned home two weeks later.

1. Grieving can be very crippling. So my first tip is to give yourself permission to grieve and acknowledge your pain. This is real and doesn’t need to be overlooked or covered up. Share with those close to you how your are feeling. Realize that everyone goes through the stages of grieving and you are normal to experience these. These stages are isolation and denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These are known as the Kubler-Ross stages of grief.

2. Call on family and friends to help you with tasks. If you normally decorated a tree with the person who is no longer here, call on other friends or family members to help with this event. Shop with others. Surround yourself with those who love you and want to support you. You may have a tendency want to withdraw, but resist the isolation.

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