The first holiday without a loved one can be one of the most difficult, but it is not uncommon for holidays in general to be a difficult time for those who have lost loved ones, even if it was a long time ago.
Find a way to honour the loss
Give space for your grief and find practical ways to acknowledge and honour the person that was lost, even if it is only privately. Don’t try to ignore feelings of grief, give emotions space to be felt.
Guilt is not useful – Grief involves every emotion
Feeling guilty about enjoying the holidays is not helpful in any way. Grief is not confined to feelings of sadness, it can include times of laughter and times of delight. Like our relationships with those we’ve lost, there are many different feelings that are all valid and don’t need to be avoided or denied.
Utilize support people and go betweens
When attending holiday events, let those who care about you know about your hopes for that event. If you are open to talking about your loss, let them know and if you’d rather not, you can also let them know and ask them to pass this on to others. Many people have no idea how to respond to someone who has experienced a loss and are grateful for any direction given.
Have back up plans and give yourself permission and ways to exit and event early if you need to.
Let those close to you know that you may need to leave an event early or pass up on an event in order to honour your own process and emotions.
Plan to “show up” for events that are difficult but which you feel you have an obligation to attend. Come early, say hello and leave early.
Practice what you want to say in way of explanation for leaving early, or passing up on an event or if someone asks about your loss. Preparing ahead of time can help with keeping emotions under control in spaces where you may not feel ready to be vulnerable.
Check out the following articles for more on grief:
I won’t go into a lot of details here, if this is something you struggle with, particularly during the holiday season, check out the following articles:
Social Anxiety – A Holiday Survival Kit
And Calming Panic
Most family has conflict of one kind or another. Some are overt and loud and dramatic, others are subtle and sarcastic. Still others function with an uneasy lack of conflict that is not representative of what is happening under the surface. Family conflict and differences causes stress for everyone. You cannot control how others act, what they say or do but you can care for yourself during this season. Check out the following article for ways to do this:
A Quick Guide to Setting Boundaries with Your Family of Origin
Divorce, Separation/Break up
The first holiday season after a break up is often the most difficult but each year can be a challenge for families who no longer do holidays together. There are many great articles and suggestions on how to manage this time. Check out the following for ideas on how to make the season less stressful or painful:
How Everyone can make Divorces Better for Everyone
Honouring Relationship Endings – A 5 Step Process
Being alone during the holidays for any reason can be difficult but it doesn’t have to ruin this time for you. Check out this article for tips for preventing a “blue Christmas”:
I was pleased to see a large variety of resources for people who have a difficult relationship with food, for managing during the holiday season. Here are some articles I thought were particularly helpful:
Maintaining Mental Health
Here are a few more tips for managing your mental health during the holidays.
Stick with a budget
Don’t start shopping wildly in order to keep up with perceived expectations for gift giving and hosting. You can put limits on your spending. This will help managing during the post holiday season.
Make a plan for how much you plan to drink or indulge in other substances, be accountable to someone for that plan. Resist impulse activities or events. For example if you meet someone at an event and they offer you substances or alcohol that you had not planned to use, don’t hesitate to decline. You are not responsible to manage other peoples’ expectations to have other partake with them in the things they choose to do. You are only responsible for yourself and your own behaviours.
Keep up with habits
Resist the all or nothing approach to celebration or indulging. Just because you already had a drink or ate more than you wanted to, doesn’t mean you have to give up on all self control. Just because you were out late one night doesn’t need to you need to be out late overnight. Honour your body and your emotions needs for ongoing consideration and care.
Many of us carry expectations of a season of friends and laughter and food and love and family and gifts that score 10/10 on perfection. This is not realistic and can leave us vulnerable to big let downs. Consider your own goals for this time, in order of importance and what achieving those would look like and what part of those you have control over. For example you might hope for a day with family that is conflict free with food that you love and the exact gifts you hoped for. However, many parts of that are outside of your control. Instead, you might consider how you want to deal with conflict, if it arises, bring a dish that you enjoy, to share, and remind yourself that the relationships are more important than the gifts.
Don’t worry about others judgements
Sometimes our imagination leads us to believe that others think badly of us, other times people tell us straight up how they feel about us. Either way, other peoples thoughts about us are none of our business and what other people say about or to us needs to be balanced with what we already know about ourselves. If in doubt, check in with those whom have shown that they love you for who you are about any judgements that are directed at you verbally. Also do your best to ignore tone, reading between the lines and passive aggressive communication. Ask for clarity if unsure and if clarity is not given, move on.
Here are some more articles on Mental health during the holidays;
More Mental Health tips for the Holidays
Caring for your Mental Health During the Holiday Season
Hope your next few weeks are filled with peace. Talk to you again in 2020.