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Surviving the Holidays After Loss

When you have experienced a painful loss such as a breakup with a significant other or the death of a loved one, holidays can be extremely difficult.

Perhaps you have strained relationships with family.

Empty nesters can feel abandoned at the holidays as their adult children make new traditions.

Often we feel a sense of obligation to celebrate holidays a certain way.

Women in particular usually feel they must meet the expectations of others.

However, as an adult you get to choose how you spend each and every day.

You get to decide if the potential outcomes of your decisions are acceptable to you or not.

Therefore, you don't have to do things.

You choose to do things.

So, if the thought of an upcoming day brings you dread, consider whether you can redefine the special day.

Here are some ideas which have worked for my clients in order to minimize distress.

  • Spend the day volunteering for others. You’ll benefit from light social interaction with strangers, keep yourself busy and reap the rewards of helping someone else. Here are some ideas:

  • Change the scenery. Go somewhere different. Or spend the holiday with a friend.

  • Offer to pet sit and get some love from a furry friend.

  • Drive yourself to holiday gatherings so you have control of how much time you spend there.

  • Remember it’s ok to say no and take care of yourself.

  • Shake things up – if you are usually the host for a holiday meal ask someone else; or offer to host festivities at your home if you usually don't. Then you get to choose the menu, timeframe, etc.

  • Don’t “should on yourself!” Do the things that are important to you and your loved ones, but remember you don’t have to do it all a certain way or at all!

  • Make a completely new tradition such as walking a 5k on Thanksgiving or delivering for Meals on Wheels. Remember the zoo is open on Christmas Day.

No matter what you decide, be kind and gentle with yourself.

Tell yourself that it's okay that you need some extra care at this time.

If you feel you need some extra support, reach out to a friend or a professional such as myself who can help you personalize a plan.

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