It seems everywhere we go during this time of the year we see holiday decorations and are being wished a "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays." For many in our community the season may not seem as bright due to the loss of a loved one. Perhaps the death was after a long illness or suddenly after a tragic accident. Either way we are left with the heavy sadness of grief and celebrating feels like the last thing we want to do. At a time of year when everyone is supposed to be happy and enjoying themselves, a grieving person can feel sad, anxious, isolated, lonely and depressed. Knowing these feelings are normal may help you to plan ahead and get through the holiday season. Remember we all grieve in our own way and there is no "right or wrong" way to work through your grief.
When facing the holiday season with a grieving heart it is important to plan ahead. This may be painful as things will be different without your loved ones here. Talk to your family early about what you are planning to do to observe the holidays this year. Think about if you want to be at home, or change things up and go to another family member's home. Many times well meaning family or friends may think they know what is best for you and want to make your plans. Be honest and make your feelings known before plans get made. Often times you may find that when the holiday arrives, it is likely to be less painful than what you anticipated.
Accept your limitations when it comes to accepting or declining party or dinner invitations. You may not have the energy to attend all the gatherings you have in the past. Think about your past traditions. Do you want to forget about them this year, continue them or perhaps develop new ones?
Make sure you take care of yourself physically. When you are grieving you are more likely to become ill. Take time for exercise, eat a properly balanced diet, and get adequate rest. Experiencing the death of a loved one requires a great deal of physical and emotional strength. Both your body and mind need rest.
Remember that it is important to allow yourself to cry when you are grieving. Ignore anyone who tells you to be strong and don't cry. Crying helps you both physically and emotionally. It can reduce stress and calms anxiety. It is also okay to feel good. Give yourself permission to laugh, and even have fun. Do not feel guilty if you find you are enjoying yourself. It is healthy to allow some joy into your life even though you are grieving.
Find someone in your life you can talk with who will listen with an open heart. What you need is someone who will let you say the words you need to say even if it is over and over again. Perhaps this is a family member, friend or a clergy person. You are welcome to join the monthly bereavement lunches to share your grief story and gain support from others who are also grieving. The next luncheon will be held at the Kangas Caf in Hancock on December 10th at noon. Remember you are not alone in your grief this holiday season.
Editor's note:?Sarah Baratono is a LMSW Family Care Coordinator and Bereavement Coordinator at Aspirus Keweenaw Home Health and Hospice.