Holiday Survival Strategies

By Judy Tatelbaum, MSW, Hospice Foundation of America

Be kind to yourself. Holidays, traditionally a time of celebration, can be difficult for people grieving. Honoring yourself, your needs, and your feelings may be all you can manage right now. Do only as much as you can. Choose what's best for you-to be immersed in the holiday spirit or not.

Express your feelings. The surest road through grief is to feel it. Cry if you need to cry, rage if you need to rage. Allow the longings, loneliness, or whatever you feel.

Ask for what you need. Speak up! Others don't know what to say or do unless you tell them what would help you most. Say if you want to talk or want your privacy respected. Let it be known if you need companionship or if you want a shoulder to cry on.

Create support for yourself. Sharing your pain eases it. Supportive people and groups help. Most of us cope best with tough times with someone to walk with us in our pain.

Appreciate your other loved ones. It is natural to isolate yourself and feel alone in your grief but don't deprive your children, spouse, or other loved ones of your presence. They need your love, too. In return, their love can nourish you and help you begin to heal.

Help another person in need. Contributing to someone else gets your attention off yourself and can be a very effective way of healing after a loss. When you are immersed in someone else's needs, you can be free temporarily of your own pain.

Resolve how to spend the holidays:

  • Avoid the holidays. If celebrating seems too difficult, then you can choose to minimize the holidays. Get away somewhere-like skiing, a resort, or a different city. If you cannot afford to travel, then change the scenery; go to the zoo or the movies or some other distracting place. This may not erase your pain, but it may lessen it some.
  • Do something new and different. Often, the more we try to recreate the past, the more obvious is our loss. Changing traditions can be freeing and satisfying. If imagining a new holiday plan is difficult, then give the job to a creative friend or relative.
  • You will survive the holidays. The holidays may be the worst of your grief time. Eventually you will heal and your memories will persist without pain. It's okay not to have a good time. If you are hurting and unable to have your attention on anything else, let yourself be.
  • It is also okay to have a good time. While grieving, we often feel guilty about having fun. Don't deny yourself life because someone has died. If you can, enjoy the holidays and every day. Death teaches us that every day of life is precious. The best gift we can give ourselves is to live wholeheartedly.

By Judy Tatelbaum. Judy Tatelbaum, MSW, is a psychotherapist, professional speaker, educator, and author. She is also a frequent contributor to Journeys.

©2008 Hospice Foundation of America. All Rights Reserved


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