Surviving the holidays after the loss of a loved one

So the holidays were always an important and special time for me. What made it extra special was being with my family. For as long as I can remember the holidays have been special to my family.

As I face my first Thanksgiving without my Mama I can’t help but feel very nervous. The last few months have been very painful, so I can only imagine how torturous these special days will be without her physical presence.

I am finding hard to see the things to be thankful for, thought I know I have a lot to be thankful for… Right now all I can see is the loss and pain. I guess that is normal.

My Mom was a great cook. She was known for her chocolate pie and her deviled eggs. My favorite was her custard pie. If you weren’t quick enough during Thanksgiving dinner you might miss out on my Mama’s specialties. I loved being her taste tester when it came to making the deviled eggs.

I think the biggest fear of mine about the holidays is being alone.

Thanksgiving will also be a precursor for Christmas, which will be even more difficult to endure.

I need to shift my brain in realizing that Mama is still around us but that is difficult without her physical presence. I guess it will just take some time.

Things like making cookies, watching the kids open their presents and holiday decorations will not be the same without my Mom’s physical presence.

These feelings of loss are so intense, deep, raw and painful. My first response is to try to stuff them away. I need to tolerate them and let them out.

How does everyone else cope with the holidays when they have lost a loved one?

Part of me wishes I could just skip the holidays, as it is is all too painful. While another part feels it is important to honor my Mama.

Here are some helpful coping skills that might help you during the holidays:

  • Find ways to remember your loved one. Light a candle, say a prayer, hold a memorial, etc.
  • Have a plan A, B, C when it comes to spending the holidays. If plan A doesn’t feel right having other options will relieve stress. Other options could be going to see a movie, volunteering at a soup kitchen or having different options when it comes to spending the holidays with other people.
  • Be gentle with yourself and don’t feel pressured to do something you aren’t ready for.
  • Leave a place at the dinner table for your loved one. Having a physical reminder that your loved one is still with you is a helpful reminder of this.
  • Keep their traditions alive. Cook what they might have or what they loved. On the other hand if those traditions don’t feel right without your loved one, create new traditions.
  • Ask for help, and let others offer their support.
  • Volunteer at a soup kitchen, etc. Helping others can be very theraputic.
  • Don’t be afraid to seek professional help as in a therapy, etc.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and how you are feeling.
  • It is okay to tone down the holidays, don’t overload on stress by living up to the full schedule of the holidays. It is perfectly okay to take it easy. Do what feels best and what you can tolerate.
  • Focus on the children of your family. The holidays without your loved one is especially difficult for children.
  • Allow yourself to tolerate the feelings that surface. It is okay to cry. There is also no
  • Set aside some alone time where you can regroup and allow yourself to cope with the feelings that surface.
  • Balance alone time with sociability. Rest and solitude can help renew strength. Friends and family, however, can be a wonderful source of support.
  • Find a creative outlet to cope. Write a poem, collage, paint, etc.
  • Take care of yourself.
  • It is okay to feel joy and happiness during the holidays. Your loved one would want you to enjoy yourself.

I really need to take this list to heart and take my own medicine. I also have to remember to take each day moment by moment.


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