When I first went to Griefshare it was in the fall and talking about the holidays meant Christmas, Thanksgiving and the other major holidays. But now in the spring those holidays seem far away. But they are not the only holidays we who are grieving have to survive. So I wanted to share some of the tips that make survival less painful and distressing even if it is a birthday or the anniversary of your wedding, which is coming up for me.
The key to surviving any holiday or anniversary is summed up in one word: planning. Like the old cliché, failing to plan is planning to fail. For some it actually means making a list of what you want to do and what you don’t want to do and then sticking to your list. Consider traditions or anything you have done in the past. Don’t be surprised when you want to deviate from the way you’ve always done things. If it is still too painful, tell those close to you why and ask them to be considerate of your feelings. If they won’t, remember that self-care is critical to those who are wounded inside.
Be honest with yourself concerning expectations. Those nasty “should do” things. Grief is a consuming experience and you may find you are worn out and tired. Flexibility is your friend during these times. Leave your acceptance of an invitation with a way out gracefully. If you need to change your mind just tell them and ask them to try to understand.
You may in time need to make changes to ease your pain. Changing traditions, or changing activities, or changing your surroundings. In time your living loved ones will come to grips with the new you. If they don’t, don’t fret or worry. They have changed too. Don’t place unrealistic expectations on yourself. And don’t let anyone force you to do something you just can’t do anymore.
A final word. Never be afraid to ask for help or to accept help when it is needed. Grief is uncharted territory for most of us. We do not have all of the answers to what to do or how to feel. So as you find your way through the holidays, be sensitive to those who would love to help you or accommodate you in this time. There is no magic wand or secret formula guaranteed to make the holidays stress free. But you can survive now and thrive later. And in time you will make new memories that will bring joy to yourself and to those who are still there waiting for you on the far side of grief.