Friday, November 4, 2011

Tips for the Bereaved: Handling the Holidays

Here are a few tips to help you get through the holidays without your loved one, and with your sanity intact.

1. Decide what you can handle comfortably and let family and friends know. Please remember that there is no right or wrong way of handling the holidays.

2. Ask yourself, "Can I handle the responsibility of the family dinner, etc., or shall I ask someone else to do it? Do I want to talk about my loved one or not? Shall I stay here for the holidays or go to a completely different environment?"

3. Depending upon your answers, you may want to make some changes, if they feel comfortable for you. For example,

---You could open presents on Christmas Eve, instead of Christmas morning (or vice versa); or vary the timing of Hannukah gift-giving or latke-making.

---Would it help to have dinner at a different time or location? (e.g., another's home, a restaurant, a picnic in the park.

---Maybe it is time to let the younger generation shop, decorate the house, bake, or prepare food, while you do only what you can or want to do. Remember to pace yourself.

4. This may be the year to RE-EXAMINE YOUR PRIORITIES: Such as NOT writing greeting cards, or NOT doing the holiday baking or decorating, or NOT putting up a tree or preparing
the family dinner, etc.

---It is important to ask yourself, "Do I really enjoy doing this? Is this a task that can be shared?"

---This might be the year to hire a caterer or buy a prepared dinner from the grocery store.

5. It is important to recognize your loved one's presence in the family or social circle. Let's face it, he or she is very present, even if you can't touch them. So, go ahead, and do what will give you pleasure or peace....

---Hang a stocking for your loved one, into which people can put notes with their thoughts or feelings.

---Listen to music that was especially liked by your loved one; look at photographs.

---Set his/her place at the dinner table and decorate his/her place with flowers or a candle.

---Give in to that urge to buy your loved one a present, enjoy wrapping it, and then give it to a charity or a homeless person.

6. If you decide to do holiday shopping, make a list ahead of time and keep it handy for a day when you feel like shopping, or shop through an online catalog.

7. This next item is critical: Try to get enough rest. The holidays can be emotionally and physically draining.

8. Your feelings will, no doubt, be ever-present, so, please, allow yourself to express your feelings.
Holidays often magnify feelings of loss, especially when the loved one has only recently died or was recently relocated to a facility or hospice. It is natural to feel sadness. Give yourself time-outs from socializing.

9. Grief can be a lonely experience, either because our friends and family members are protecting themselves from their own feelings by staying away from us, or because we choose to demonstrate a stiff upper lip and keep our pain to ourselves. It is important that you share concerns, apprehensions, and sadness with a friend. The need for support is often greater during

10. Here are a few DON'Ts.....

---Don't hesitate to call a clergyperson or a therapist for support.
---Don't be afraid to have fun. Laughter and joy are not disrespectful. Give yourself and your family members permission to celebrate and to take pleasure in the holidays.

Perspective is important, if not readily available, when we are grieving. Try to remind yourself that it won't always hurt this much, because, truth be told, it won't always hurt this much. It may always hurt some, and some years it may hurt more than others, but the pain won't always be as acute as it is during the first and second years.