Many associate the holidays with time spent with loved ones. When your family makeup has changed dramatically due to loss, excitement surrounding the holidays can often turn to anxiety and even grief.

This is a normal, healthy response to a family change and is a unique, personal experience that differs from person to person. There is no right or wrong way to feel. Many people find that they never “get over” the difference; rather, they learn to live in their new normal. 

If your family dynamic is different this holiday season, there are things you can do to make it easier on your emotions and experience. 

The most important thing is to practice self-care and remain patient as you learn to navigate and adapt to new terrain. This may include exercise, eating regular meals, talking with friends or family and restful sleep. 

It’s also important to allow others in so you do not internalize the experience. The following activities from Grief.com can be meaningful and help you express your emotions positively: 

  • Say a prayer before the holiday dinner
  • Light a candle for your loved one 
  • Create an online tribute for them
  • Share a favorite story about your loved one
  • Have everyone tell a funny story about your loved one
  • Attend services at your place of worship and pray for them

 

Comfort of Light During the Holidays

 Grief reactions depend on the relationship and situation with the person who is not present, and may be experienced as a mental, physical, social or emotional response. These responses may include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness and despair. It’s also not uncommon to experience sleeping problems, changes in appetite or illness.

The first year is typically the most difficult. The chair at the table is very obviously empty, and it may not seem right to be celebrating without your loved one. Work with your family to modify the holiday rituals for your comfort level. If you are not yet ready to celebrate as usual, try holding the events at an alternate location.

There are services that can help you cope with your loss, including local emergency grief counselors and therapists. Bereavement services are provided by hospice agencies like Kindred to eligible patients and families for up to 13 months after the loss of a loved one.   

 

By Blair Klayko