December – a month of preparation, decorations, colorful lights, family gatherings, treasured songs, anticipation, joy and peace…
It is also a season of shorter days, longer nights, frigid weather and an overabundance of time to think of the loved ones we have lost.
My name is Nancy Romaine, and I am the Bereavement/Aftercare Coordinator for the Catholic Cemeteries Association. Through my interaction with grieving family members, I have come to realize that this may not be “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” It could very well be the hardest time of the year.
Many people struggle to just get through the holidays, which is a feat in itself! Many also find a renewed faith in God and experience His healing love and the peace that only He can give. Your holidays will never be the same since the loss of your loved one – realize and accept that. Good intentioned family members will try to keep everything the same, lovingly tell them that it is not possible.
Here are some ideas that may help you through the holidays:
7 Ways to Deal with Holiday Grief
Holidays tend to be family-oriented and if you’ve lost a loved one, the season can be an especially painful reminder of the death. Here are some ways to cope:
• Talking about the deceased person is okay. Your stress will only increase if the deceased person’s memory is allowed to become a landmine that everyone tiptoes around.
• Things won’t be the same. It’s normal to feel at odds with yourself and family events when dealing with grief. Do not isolate, but limit involvement when you need to and plan new events.
• Don’t let other people’s expectations dictate how your holiday will unfold. If you don’t feel like doing something this Christmas, don’t let others force you. If you do want to attend holiday functions, make sure you know your limits. Leave early, arrive late, drive alone — do whatever you need to do to help yourself.
• Seek support. Talk to your friends and family about how you feel. Also, many communities offer support groups for people who are grieving. Being around people who know what you’re going through can be very comforting.
• Plan a special time to celebrate the memories of the person who died. Some families develop creative rituals like decorating a miniature Christmas tree at the cemetery, donating money to a charity like CMHA, singing their favourite seasonal song, reciting a special prayer before the evening meal, or even just lighting a candle. Symbolic gestures like these can help families validate their feelings of sadness and overcome the guilt of enjoying special occasions.
• Take care of yourself. Stress, depression and bodily neglect are not a great mix at any time of the year.
• Think about building some new traditions. Remember that it’s okay not to do what you traditionally do. Planning something totally different is not an insult to the memory of a loved one and can be a positive way to ease some of the pressure.
Our Lord gives us the promise of Everlasting Life, we WILL be reunited with our loved ones. That is the true hope of Christmas, the sole reason that God sent his Son. That is the priceless gift we receive at Christmas and every day. My prayer for you this season is that you have the courage, strength and support you need to get through this very difficult time and that you are aware of God’s constant presence and love for you.
If you would like to receive more information, please contact me at 216-883-5420 or e-mail me at email@example.com