Getting through the Holidays
The approaching holiday season can weigh especially heavy for grieving families. How people feel about the holidays can be as unique and individual as their grief. In our work with families over the past three decades, we’ve acquired some tips and suggestions that can serve as guideposts for navigating the season. We’ve also designed a Holiday Plan Worksheet that can assist families to create a new map for finding their way through this time.
1. Plan ahead.
Anxiety and anticipation leading up to the season can be more intense
than the actual holidays. Planning ahead can help lower anxiety,
especially for children. Once you’ve decided what you can and can’t do,
share your decisions with friends and family.
2. Don’t let other people determine what you “should”
(or “shouldn’t) do.
You don’t have to do what others think you should do. Give yourselves
the right to do what you want to do!
3. Accept limitations.
You may not be able to do all the things you’ve always done. Which
aspects of the holidays are especially challenging for your family?
Consider scaling back or changing things you may have done in the
past, and consider what has been or might be especially enjoyable or
meaningful to your family.
4. Celebrate different feelings and preferences.
Involve your children in discussions about what they would like to do.
You and your family may decide to keep everything the same or change
everything – or you may fall somewhere in-between.
5. Be informed before attending events.
Find out who will be there, how long it’s expected to last, and whether
you need to do anything to prepare for it. As a family, brainstorm ways
you and your children want to respond to questions or offers of help
6. Ask for help, even when it’s hard to do.
If it feels right, allow people to help in concrete ways such as cleaning, cooking, baking,
shopping, childcare, and running errands. Sometimes we worry about burdening others, but
more often than not, they are eager to help.
7. Find time for rest.
The holidays can be physically and emotionally draining, especially if you’re grieving. Encourage
rest and quiet play at times, and plan for healthy eating and hydration for the entire family.
8. Find ways to remember and honor the person who died.
Here are some ideas to consider:
• Light a memorial candle. Invite children and other friends/family to share memories.
• Write a card or letter to the person who died.
• Write memories on strips of paper and use them to create a paper chain.
• Hang a special decoration in memory of the person, such as a wreath or stocking. If a stocking is used, family members can place cards or pieces of paper with memories inside.
• Buy a gift the person would have liked and donate it to a charity.
• Giftwrap a box and make an opening in the top for family and friends to share written memories. At a special time the box can be unwrapped and the memories shared.
• Set a special memorial place at the table during a holiday meal.
• Create a memorabilia table or corner where you can place photos, stuffed animals, toys, cards, foods, and any other kinds of mementos.
• Share one of the person’s favorite foods or meals. Food can be a great spark for sharing memories.