The holidays are often difficult for those who have experienced the death of someone close. Annual religious celebrations, family gatherings and birthdays are all times full of joy when the family comes together, but for those who have been bereaved it can feel surprisingly lonely. Here are five ways that you can help yourself feel stronger and cope a little better during these times.
1 – Talk about your grief
While you might not want to seem like a party-pooper by bringing up your personal feelings of sadness or isolation, the only way people can help you is if they know how you are feeling. Grief can be all-consuming and scary which is why you need to bring it in from out of the cold. Your loved one’s care about you and are there to help. Try bringing one of your relatives to one side and confiding in them as to how you’re feeling. Your grief will not improve by ignoring it or avoiding it and many people report an overwhelming feeling of relief after they have shared what’s going on inside their head.
2 – Reduce stress
Grief is taxing both emotionally and physically and you need to be careful that you aren’t over committing yourself. Whether it’s organising a birthday party or cooking the Christmas roast and all it’s trimmings, you should ask for help when you need it. You might believe that keeping busy will help you deal with your grief but it’s talking and sharing feelings – not avoiding them – that will ultimately help you out in the long run.
3 – Pay tribute to your loved one
Bereavement can often make those left behind feel guilty about enjoying themselves. You might feel that it’s unfair for you to be having a good time when your loved one isn’t there to join in too. This is not a beneficial way of thinking and will only leave you upset and frustrated. Instead, you should seek to honour your loved one’s memory. Raising a toast, taking a moment to remember them and perhaps sharing a funny or interesting anecdote about their life are just a few ways that you can pay tribute to your loved one.
4 – Coping with birthdays and anniversaries of your loved one
There are certain days of the year when grief and sadness can be compounded, such as on the deceased’s birthday and the anniversary of the day they died. What would normally be a day of celebration can be a painful and difficult day. On this day it’s important to give yourself time to process your feelings and emotions. Perhaps booking the day off work so that you can visit your loved one’s grave, or a special place they liked to visit themselves. If you are religious, then you might want to visit your place of worship and light a candle or say a prayer for your loved one. There are no right or wrong ways to feel on these days, you might want to seek help from loved ones to get you through the day, or equally you might want to be alone – the choice is yours.
5 – Reframe your emotions
Sometimes the key to coping with a difficult day is to try and balance out the negative with something good. Yes, you can be sad that your loved one is absent from the day, but you can also thankful for the years you spent together and the memories you have of them. Exploring a certain memory or a feeling can create a spark of joy that can make a real difference to your day.
Finally, if you are affected by this issue there are a number of charities that can provide help such as counselling, group meetings and other professional support to get you through the difficult days. Here are just a few: