Holiday Buzz Kill; Tips for those who Grieve
Do you feel anxious, dread and overwhelm when the word holiday is brought up? Do you approach them like a hurdle you have to get over/through/around?
Do you wish that you didn’t feel like you have to hide your feelings, put on a front with your family and friends or feel guilty about enjoying yourself?
I muddled through ‘it’ for at least 10 years and suppressed so many feelings of guilt, overwhelm, and not feeling worthy. I merely survived the holidays. I decked the frickin halls, overindulged, spoiled my kids and learned to live with it. Until I broke the pattern.
The gravity of loss intensifies during ANY Holiday
So, if something is too heavy, make it lighter. If you are working on remaking a life, you need to remake your days - holidays included. So many secondary losses that revolve around a calendar. The first year it is such a fog probably for a reason. You don’t even know what day it is, thank God - because if you did, you would also know the dread of the next upcoming holiday or special day.
New Year’s eve is the hardest for me. It just marks the start of one more year without him. In my head I know I have moved forward, but in my heart it is different. Grief never ends, it just changes. So I usually go to bed early, then get up and drive by the health club and laugh at all the people with new year's resolutions that will last a week. That may sound cruel, petty and silly. It is. I can accept that.
When you are a widow, it isn’t just December that puts you on your knees. Holidays, the calendar of secondary loss throughout the year….
New Years - one more year without him
Valentines Day - heart broken, eating every chocolate in sight
Spring Break - Vacationing alone
April Fools - do you ever think that this all is a bad dream and it didn’t happen?
May - Mothers Day
June - Fathers Day; seeing the longing through my children’s eyes
July - 4th of July, family BBQ’s
August - 1st day of school; so many firsts are hard
September - Labor Day, the end of summer
October - Halloween
November - Thanksgiving
December - Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah
As if the Major Holidays weren’t Enough
As if that wasn’t enough, let’s throw in birthdays, death days, days when they got diagnosed, wedding anniversaries, engagement anniversaries, and so on. These events and dates never go away. There is a whole industry of schedulers, planners and calendars. However, your action and reaction to holidays now and in the future CAN change! I love holidays and have learned that I choose how to spend and share them.
“Traditions are like rules; however well intentioned when it comes down to it, they were made to be broken. As children we lived for the opportunity to break rules and traditions, to strike out on a different path. Why not experience that joy? Chang the meal, change the location, make new traditions; your life has changed tremendously and so should your traditions.”
- Scott Miller
You Make the Rules
- You don’t have to celebrate on the exact day. Celebrate early, late, call it a new name, the eve of something special
- Memory Lane is closed unless I want to open it. You don’t have to have those conversations with others on the holiday.
- I once sent out my Christmas cards on April 1st - April Fools!
- If the day is too difficult, do something different on that day and celebrate another day. Pajamas all day and breakfast in the dark.
- You can toss grandma’s fruit cake.
- Nobody says, you can’t have pizza for dinner
- You don’t have to make your “famous recipe”. Have someone else make it.
- One Holiday, we just made mac and cheese because that is what the kids wanted. Our guests like it too.
- Eat pie whenever you want
- Order anything you can and have it delivered
- Wrap presents or don’t
- Tell people what to bring and be specific - no one wants a gluten free, vegetarian, low fat pie.
Be patient with yourself. Be realistic with your expectations of self and others.
A few more ideas, yet a bit more strategic:
- Take your own car for a quick get-away if needed.
- Plan a “melt down” day other than the holiday. I have a day where I cry, watch Hallmark movies, eat pie for breakfast and look at our pictures together. It’s cathartic and I designate this day so that I can keep it together on the real holiday date
- Have a statement planned for when someone says, “this day must be hard for you.” You say, “thanks for saying that, it is so nice to spend time together. What are your New Year’s plans? Acknowledge and shift is a good strategy to get through the day.
- Have a designated place to go if the emotions flood where you can be by yourself and reset, decide to go back in or decide it’s time to go.
- Limit alcohol. It isn’t your friend that day. It’s your one night stand.
Own Your Morning!
- On the exact holiday - own your morning
- Get up an hour early, set your intention for the day, sip your coffee from your favorite mug, and find some calm just for you.
- Move your body - walk, yoga video, stretch, bike, hike, swim….move something.
- Read, journal, listen to music, etc. Time just for you.
- List accomplished steps for how far you have come
- List 3 things you are grateful for today
- Write out a vision of a vacation you want to take this year
- Water - start with 1 full glass and drink 7 more that day. You won’t spend time being as sad, because you will be peeing all day.
- Dress up, wear your favorite color, put on pretty earrings, lip color, and screw the waterproof mascara - you got this.
Alone with Things to Do
- Shop online: order a few things that make you happy and look forward to their delivery date. New lip color, decadent hand cream, cool necklace, beautiful journal, fabulous throw pillow, etc. I always take the mantra of holiday shopping, “two for them, one for me!” You can’t give from an empty cup.
- Don’t sit for more than an hour and do things that have a future benefit
- Organize something
- Get rid of 5 things from your closet that you don’t LOVE
- Do something creative: draw, color, paint, sew, knit, crochet, move the furniture, change up the bookshelf or anything creative
- Go for a drive and look at landscaping for ideas to do at your house for spring.
- Cook and freeze something for next week
- Dedicate the day to someone less fortunate: a homeless family, children in the hospital, a brand new widow with children. When we think outside of ourselves and send positive energy to someone else, it gives calm to ourselves.
- Do something anonymous and nice. I started buying balloons from the dollar store and on Christmas morning, I tie one to every mailbox in our cul de sac, including my own. No one knows it was me and it just makes me smile!
Overall, it is YOU that can change the way you approach holidays and your life! You are driving the bus! You got this!
Sending you all a beautiful pie filled holiday!
Want more tips, strategies and overall joy in your day?
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“This year I will celebrate the work in progress, that is ME!”