The holidays can feel anything but joyous for those coping with loss. When everyone else appears happy and cheerful, it’s also easy to feel alone. But you are not the only one who feels this way.
There is no road map for getting through the holidays after experiencing the loss of a family member or friend, especially when they were such an important part of your celebrations. But there are some steps you can take that may help.
Please consider some of the suggestions to help you cope with the holiday season:
- Plan ahead. Accept that this might be a difficult time for you. The additional stress this season brings may impact you emotionally, financially, physically and spiritually. These are normal reactions. Be prepared for rushes of emotions that may occur and the possibility that sights and sounds could trigger memories and flashbacks.
- Recognize that the holidays might not be the same. Expecting everything to be the same might lead to disappointment. Modify or make new traditions as it feels right. But also remember the holidays may affect other family members. Talk to others as you make plans and share your feelings. Respect the choices and needs of others in your family who are grieving, including children. Compromise if you can.
- Go on a trip. If you feel you will be devastated by staying home, go somewhere else. But remember that November and December holidays are celebrated all over the world, and you may be faced with the same types of images no matter where you go.
- Relive the happy memories. Pick three special memories of holidays past with your loved one. Think of them often – and celebrate them. If you have lost someone, find a way to honor them through new holiday traditions.
- Direct moments of uncomfortable silence. Because family and friends love you, they will think they are doing you a favor by not mentioning your loved one or the crash. Have a conversation with your loved ones and let them know if you do or don’t want to talk about the crash or a loved one who was killed.
- Don’t overwhelm or over commit yourself. Give yourself a reprieve. Accept a few invitations to be with close family or friends. Choose the ones that sound most appealing at the time and decline the ones that feel more like an obligation. Take time for yourself and take care of yourself. Take it slow and easy. One step at a time.
- Be careful not to isolate yourself. It is all right to take time for yourself, but try not to cut yourself off from the support of family and friends.
- Talk about your feelings. Let people know if you are having a tough day.
- Consider holding or attending a memorial service or candlelight vigil. You can make it as small or large as you want. For a large gathering, you might host people at a special location, have food prepared, have favorite music playing, poems read and even have someone speak. Take a few minutes to share your favorite stories with others and make a toast or light a candle in honor and remembrance.
If you want to talk with someone about coping during the holidays or for any reason, please call our 24-Hour Victim Help Line at 1-877-MADD-HELP (877-623-3435) or visit madd.org to chat online.