by Judy Brizendine
Holidays, which we usually greet with happiness and excitement, carry the potential to create misery and anxiety in the heart of anyone who is grieving. Occasions we normally welcome turn into times that we dread. Whether we feel guilty about participating in any kind of celebration, or we’re so heartbroken that our sorrow overtakes everything else, the holidays sometimes feel like more than we can handle. Here are a few ideas to ease holiday anxiety during grief:
1. Make simple plans before the last minute. Whatever you do, don’t let your holiday plans just fall wherever they may. You probably aren’t eager to make any kind of plans—but think of something simple you’d enjoy doing. Grief has changed everything this year, and maybe it will be easier for you if you move away from your traditional plans and try something new. Celebrating in your usual way, but without your loved one, may be too much to handle. Consider a change. But don’t put off making some kind of plans.
2. Invite someone to celebrate with you. It’s natural to want to delay thinking about the holidays because you don’t want to face these special times without your loved one. However, regardless of how you decide to spend the occasion, I strongly suggest that you avoid being alone. Spending time with someone who cares about you will help to ease the pain of your loneliness. At times like this, it’s important to do what’s best for you, even when you have to push yourself a little. You don’t have to fill up all of your time, or spend the entire day with someone, but at least be sure that someone you care about is with you for a time.
3. Abandon any guilt feelings. Don’t allow anyone, including yourself, to make you feel guilty this season. After someone we love has died, the idea of enjoying ourselves at all, or celebrating a special occasion like the holidays, brings on waves of guilt. Sometimes we feel guilty just because we’re still alive. Guilt feelings are in no way positive—and in this situation, they will create unnecessary anguish. Your loved one would not want you to feel guilty. Don’t allow it!
4. Give yourself permission to say ‘no.’ This year, if others suggest ideas that you just don’t feel up to, give yourself permission to say ‘No, I’m sorry I can’t join you,’ or ‘Thank you for thinking of me, but not this year.’ Sometimes it’s best for you to just say no. Or if you can’t face the task of decorating for the holidays—then don’t. If you don’t feel like cooking a big meal, then don’t. If you don’t feel comfortable being part of a large gathering, just politely decline. Remove as much pressure as you possibly can. Say no to the things that are too difficult for you this year.
5. Treat yourself gently. Above all, treat yourself with special care. Grief is more painful than most of us ever dreamed, and often we’re harder on ourselves than anyone else is. Be gentle with yourself. You’re doing the best you can. The last thing you need is additional pressure!
Do whatever you can do to ease your holiday anxiety during grief. You can still appreciate moments of joy in the midst of your sorrow. You can cherish happy memories and share them with friends and family. And you can be thankful for the blessings you still have.
To ease anxiety:
- plan ahead
- don’t isolate yourself
- abandon guilt feelings
- you might just have to say ‘no’
- treat yourself gently.
About the Author: Judy Brizendine–author, blogger, and speaker–is a woman with a passionate mission that developed as a result of a tragic loss. The statement, “Out of your deepest pain comes your greatest gift,” describes her experience.
In 1998, Judy’s husband of twenty-nine years died suddenly on a mountain bike ride, and her grief journey changed her life, perspective, and career.
Because she was painfully unprepared to face grief–just as most of us are–she is committed to easing your struggle to understand and deal with grief. Judy’s goal is to meet you wherever you are, and connect with you in such a way that you’ll know you can make it through this experience and discover a new sense of hope and direction.
Her award-winning books, STUNNED by Grief and STUNNED by Grief Journal, gently guide you through the chaos and confusion of grief in a realistic, revealing, personal, and practical way. You can find more information by visiting her website.