Snow. Lights. Music. All around us we are reminded that the holidays have arrived. For many, this time of year is filled with friends, family and traditions. It is a time when we look forward with excitement to the wonder of the holidays.
When we lose someone close, the holidays may seem so far. They may look different, and they may feel different. The holidays, as with life, will not be the same as before the loss. Spending a lot of energy on trying to remake the holidays what they once were can be exhausting. Whereas some will embrace the old family traditions, others will choose to begin new ones. Examples may be decorating the tree with dads baseball hats, baking grandmas favorite recipe or helping someone else in need. No matter how hard we try, it is important to acknowledge that the holidays will be different.
At Tides, I have the honor of walking alongside grieving children, teens and their families. I continue to be inspired by their courage to live and love. They have taught me firsthand how difficult the holidays can be. I have learned that the anticipation of the holidays can be just as difficult as the holidays themselves; that the second and third holiday following the death can be even more difficult than the first as the finality of the death begins to sink in. I have also learned the importance of taking time to remember, especially this time of year.
If you are grieving, be kind to yourself. Grieving takes more energy than most people realize. Do not push yourself too hard. If you are not up to attending holiday parties or shopping, then let people know. You are the expert on your own grief journey.
Although there may be many people who want to support you, they may not know how. Educate them. Sometimes we think people should know what we need, when in reality they may not. Develop a plan A and plan B for the holidays, knowing that either may be possible. Allow yourself to experience pleasure. And surround yourself with people that love you.
During this holiday season, our thoughts are with those who are grieving. We remember you.
Holly Torbic is program director of Tides, a local grief support program for children, teens and their families who have lost a loved one. Visit www.tidesprogram.org for more information.