We all delight in the joy that children take in the season but, as we age, the holidays can usher in some pretty complicated mixed feelings such as stress, anxiety over potential family tensions and loneliness. And, for many families, grief.
Those of us who have lost loved ones are all too familiar with the cycle of emotions that first year. There is the first birthday without them, the first Christmas, the anniversary of their death. Over time, we can adjust to the painful new normal, but time can't ever fully heal the sense of loss – often felt even more acutely during those moments we formerly shared with the departed. Years later, the memories of someone long gone can come flooding back, leaving bystanders perplexed and worried about why Grandma is suddenly crying in the middle of all the fun.
If grief is an inescapable part of the holidays for you or someone you love, here are some things you can do:
Acknowledge the Feeling: The holidays don't have to be all joy, all the time. It is perfectly normal and acceptable to let a little sadness in – particularly for a lost loved one.
Honor the Memory: Set a little time aside to memorialize the person who has died. Whether it's visiting their grave, carrying on a tradition you used to do together, sharing photos and memories with a younger family member, or just telling them all the things you wish you still could. By making this part of your holiday tradition, you can keep a piece of them with you during this meaningful time of year.
Enjoy the Life You Have: The best way to honor a deceased loved one is to continue to live your own life to the fullest. Just think, they would never have wanted you to wallow in grief. After you've set aside some time to remember them, try to think about all the wonderful things that are still in your life, whether it's people, a lifelong passion or simply the miracle of life itself. Whenever you experience joy, think of it as a gift that the person you love is sending your way and embrace it as if you were embracing them again.
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