As a first step, it is important to realize that much of the stress that comes with the holiday season is due to society’s perception of what this time of year should be like. “Generally speaking, holidays are portrayed in culture or in the media as happy traditions of celebrations with loved ones,” explains Sabrina Saucier, LCSW, and Alma therapist. “As a result, mourners may struggle internally with how they really feel about what they ‘supposed’ to feel.”
This intensity is difficult (read: almost impossible) to shake off, so instead of trying, if you have the bandwidth now, you can give yourself the upper hand using this energy to prepare for grief during the holidays. . Let this be a time when you need to think less about your feet and be able to focus more on taking care of yourself.
Take time to think of plans that you can break
One of my strategies for difficult days of grief is to make plans that I know I can break, if necessary, with people I know will understand. I started doing this in the beginning during the death anniversaries, but I found it just as useful for the holidays. The basic requirements for this strategy are honesty (both with yourself and with others) and a commitment to give space to whatever emotions you have on a given day.
Developing a deeper level of self-awareness can facilitate this. “It may be helpful to understand that you may have different holiday restrictions this year,” Saucier said. “Setting boundaries and realistic expectations can help you manage or avoid situations you may not be ready for.”
Find alternatives to deliveries that no longer resonate
If some traditions just do not feel the same without the presence of a loved one who has been lost, you can find relief from your grief by introducing a new form of celebration. This is what Kayla Nedza, writer Things I could never thank you for ($ 17) and its host Wellness Glow Up podcast, and her family did after her mother’s death in 2014. “We shifted our holiday meals to sit at the kitchen table with four chairs across from our table with six chairs, which left us a very empty seat for “to continue to be reminded that our mom was not there,” he says. “These are the little things I had to navigate with my family to make sure we were creating a new way to spend the holidays with our new family structure, instead of doing something out of the ordinary that didn’t work for us. ”
Of course, asking your family and friends to change their holiday plans can be difficult. But something that can make these conversations a little smoother is to have a few phrases at your disposal that will help you communicate your needs effectively. Saucier offers some templates that you can customize to fit your limits:
- “I really appreciate your invitation, but I do not feel ready to participate this year.”
- “I know that usually (I do / bring / host) ___, but I will go ___ this year”
- “I would appreciate it if we could change the subject”
- “Excuse me, I’ll go out for a few minutes”
- “I really miss the __ and I would love to honor them this year until ___”
- “I really appreciate our traditions, but I thought we could do things a little differently this year.”
Timely preparation for the holiday season does not guarantee that your grief will not manifest or that it will necessarily be less severe this year. But taking the time now to think about how you would like to save space for yourself can make the difficult ones more manageable.
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