We are in the midst of the holiday season. Thanksgiving is just over. Dan and Pete’s birthdays were this week, and Christmas decorations are going up all over town. If you have tuned in to my Navigating Grief During the Holidays phone calls, you have heard me talk about ways to enter this season with a little more ease after the loss of a loved one.
My own experience this year has been a little bittersweet. As I step more and more into this work, I am right in the middle of two realities. I am feeling fully aligned with my purpose as I bring this work to the world and help learn how to be with the feelings that grief brings up. And my daughter is still not here. I have found myself on the verge of tears several times this past week, as I usually am this time of year. I tell you this not garner sympathy for myself, rather to let you know that no matter how much time has passed, it still hurts, I still miss her, and I still cry. That’s what I mean when I tell you that everyone’s experience of grief is personal and unique. While you don’t get over your loss, you will gain resources to help you to process your feelings when they do come up. Knowing that you have resources eventually allows you to relax. Relaxation allows you to not be so overwhelmed when the feelings come upon you. Finding ways to modify your holiday traditions can give you the space you need when the feelings do come up as well as help you relax knowing that you won’t be reliving the memories in quite the same way.
I would like to elaborate further on some of the modifications we made to our holiday tradition to help us navigate our holiday seasons.
Change the location of your celebration
We began traveling during the holidays. We planned vacations during this time of the year to warm tropical locations. This not only took us out of our normal environment, it also provided another layer of relaxation and stress relief.
Change the way you decorate
It became too difficult for us to put up a Christmas tree and decorate it with all of Leah’s special ornaments. We decided not to put up a tree the after the 2nd year, and we still have not put up a tree. A couple of years we got a Norfolk pine and decorated it with homemade ornaments. Sometimes we get a poinsettia, an amaryllis or paper whites.
We stopped listening to Christmas music for a while. There were certain songs that were special to our family. Songs we listened to while we decorated our tree, or baked cookies. It was just too hard to hear them the first few years. We gradually started including music again. Now, in limited amount the memories soothe us. Although there is nothing that catches me off guard like hearing a song, tears spring up without warning at times.
My husband Dan shared in our last Navigating Grief During the Holidays call that going to the shopping mall to shop was too difficult for him the first few years. It was not just the festive atmosphere, but also the memories of shopping trips with Leah. He began shopping online.
There are many more holiday traditions that can bring up painful memories. Take some time with your own traditions and decide what will make you feel less stressed and overwhelmed this year.
It’s okay to take care of yourself during this time. Here are some questions to assist you with your inquiry;
- Where would you like to spend time this holiday season? Will familiar surroundings comfort you?
- What kind of decorations feels right for you and your family this year? The answer may be different next year.
- Is there holiday music that is too difficult to hear this year? Are there times that music can soothe you?
- Are there other traditions that feel too painful right now?
Give yourself permission to sit with these questions in the days leading up to the holiday season. Trust the answers you receive. Remember to be gentle with yourself at this time. My next newsletter will be dedicated to Radical Self-Care to give you some additional resources to nourish yourself.
In service to love,