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1. Only do what feels right. It’s up to you to decide which activities, traditions or events you can
handle. Don’t feel obligated to participate in anything that doesn’t feel doable. Grieving takes time. You are
very vulnerable right now, so all you need to do is get through the day or week or season – in a healthy way.
Try not to think much beyond that.
2. Accept your feelings – whatever they might be. Everyone takes his or her own path in grief
and mourning. Some may try to avoid sad feelings; others will be bathed in tears. Some feel bad that they aren’
t up for enjoying a holiday, others feel guilt because they are feeling joy. However you feel, accept it. And
accept the inevitable ups and downs. You may feel peaceful one minute and gut-wrenchingly sad the next. Try
to stay in tune with your own highest truth and you will know how to get through the holiday without judging
yourself or others.
3. Call on your family and friends. Talk with loved ones about your emotions. Be honest about how
you’d like to do things this year – if you want to talk about those who have passed, then do so, and let others
know it's OK. Take a buddy to events for support and create an "escape plan" together in case you need to bow
out quickly. Read books about getting through the holidays after loss, and seek out support groups, lectures or
faith-community events. Seek professional support from a therapist. Stay in touch with others who are
grieving via online groups and connections with friends.
4. Focus on the kids. Many holidays place special attention on children, and it often helps to focus on
their needs. Realize that your choices around getting through the holidays may affect the children in your
family. If you withdraw, they may not understand why you don't want to join family festivities. Perhaps you
can participate in the family rituals or gatherings that are most important to the kids, and excuse yourself when
you reach your limit.
5. Plan ahead. Sometimes the anticipation is worse than the actual holiday. Create comforting activities in
the weeks approaching a holiday so that you have something to look forward to rather than building up a dread
of the pain the holiday could bring. New activities might be easier, but familiar traditions might be comforting
as well — do what feels best for you. Surrounding yourself with positivity can be very helpful.
6. Scale back. If the thought of many holiday activities feels painful, overwhelming or inappropriate this
year, cutting back may help. For example, you might opt for minimal decorations at home and take a break
from sending holiday greetings, or try e-greetings instead of the more time-consuming task of mailing greeting
cards. You could limit holiday parties to small gatherings with your closest friends and family. Do whatever
feels safe and comfortable to you. Create realistic expectations for yourself and others, but above all be gentle
7. Give. It's amazing how in times of grief, sometimes the biggest comfort is to give to others. We often feel
paralyzed by the sheer emotion — sadness, feelings of helpless or hopelessness. In times of loss, we often want
to do something that will make a difference. Consider these options:
• If you've lost a loved one, gift-giving at holiday times may be a challenge. Shopping for gifts and seeing the
perfect gift for someone you know you will never be able to give a gift to again can be devastating. Shopping
online may be a better option for you.
• You might purchase something that symbolizes the person or time before your loss and donate it to a
needy family. Or make a donation in a loved one's name to a charity or cause he or she cherished.
on the sadness, horror or anger. Try channeling your energies in positive ways to create good in the world,
rather than perpetuate the negative. Volunteer to help people in some way that is related to that which has
caused such anguish. Give of your time and talents or make a donation to a related charity.
8. Acknowledge those who have passed on. When we are grieving a loss of someone very close to us,
it can be helpful to participate in a related holiday ritual in his or her memory. Some ideas: lighting candles for
them, talking about them, buying children's toys or books to donate in their name, dedicating a service to
them, planting a tree, making a card or writing a letter, displaying their picture or placing an item of theirs
among holiday decorations.
9. Do something different. Acknowledge that things have changed; indeed, the holiday will not be the
same as it was ever again. Accepting this will help manage expectations. Plan new activities, especially the first
year after the loss. Go to a new location for family celebrations, change the menu or go out to eat, volunteer,
invite friends over, attend the theater, travel … create new memories. Many families return to their usual
routines and rituals after the first year, but some enjoy incorporating their new experiences permanently.
article by Amy Goyer, AARP
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