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Preparing For Family Gatherings While Still Grieving

Did you recently lose someone you love in Alameda County and elsewhere? Because grief has no timetable and doesn’t care about the holiday season, your feelings don’t take a break just because it’s Christmas. Grief takes a toll any month of the year, but it’s often magnified when the holidays are upon us. There are many reasons for that, including the fact that the holiday season typically fills you with reminders of the person you lost and the fact that you’re around other people who aren’t going through loss and are enjoying the festive season. This can make you feel very alone — just when you need people the most. But bereavement services can help you get through the holidays this year, whether in the form of a support group or counseling.

As mentioned, the pain you are experiencing is at odds with the spirit of celebration you’re seeing all around you, and you’re left with quiet moments filled with the raw power of loss, says MentalHelp. The holiday season isn’t quick these days, either. They seem to start in October, even before Halloween, lasting through November and all the way through January 1. Those two-plus months can seem like an eternity to those who are grieving, often forcing them to withdraw from social activities, shopping malls, and parties just to escape the pervasive feeling of loss.

Tips For Managing Holiday Parties Amidst Grief

And yet, you can’t crawl under a rock for months on end. There are gatherings to host, parties to attend, shopping to be done, and work to be completed. Especially if you are a parent with children, you have to put on a brave face and power through. But how can you host those family gatherings during the holidays when the last thing you feel like doing is celebrating?

The first thing you need to know is that you should be honest with yourself and your family and friends that this season will be tough for you, and to make time for self-care as you navigate through November and December. Not all traditions will be easy to carry on this year as you always have, so make some decisions on which traditions you want to keep and which ones should change, suggests What’s Your Grief. It’s always possible to create a new tradition to memorialize the person you’re grieving for. It doesn’t mean you’re forgetting about them or trying to erase them from your holiday traditions, but rather it’s a way to honor their memory in a new way — at least for this year. You can always revisit your choices next year when you have a year of healing under your belt.

Here are some tips for preparing and holding holiday parties while still grieving:

  • Consider relocating the usual gathering spot for the holiday meal. If it was always at your house but it’s too painful this year to set the family table with an empty chair, ask another family member to host.
  • If you do host the meal yourself, recognize the empty spot at the table with your favorite photo of them, a single flower, or some other meaningful memento.
  • Ask close family and friends about which traditions they want to keep or how they want to honor a loved one. Everyone grieves differently, so if you just lost a parent, talk to your siblings about how they want to celebrate.
  • If you are not hosting a party but are rather an attendee, don’t commit to a whole evening out. Give yourself an “out” at those holiday parties by driving yourself so you can leave when you are feeling overwhelmed.
  • Choose one meal to commemorate your loved one, such as their favorite dish. This is a small yet meaningful gesture that will include them in the celebration yet won’t be too overwhelming.
  • Keep the decorations to a minimum. You don’t have to go all out this year. You’re understandably upset and still grieving. Putting out all the decorations you both enjoyed so much could trigger even more emotions, and during a time when you want to minimize the pain as much as possible, give yourself a break this year.
  • No one says you have to send out holiday cards. Going through the motions won’t help anyone. Try again next year if you want.
  • Minimize or skip gift-giving. Everyone will understand that the last thing you want to do after a loss is wander aimlessly around the mall in search of presents.
  • Create a memory stocking or box at the gathering, and encourage guests to jot down what they loved about the person.
  • Don’t beat yourself up over not attending parties or deciding against holding your annual Secret Santa party. Sometimes you can’t think about anything other than lying on the couch, making dinner for your kids, or going to work. That’s OK. Again, people will understand.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

The holidays in particular are rough on those who are grieving. Don’t go through it alone. Contact us at 888-978-1306 to inquire about our many bereavement services that can help you navigate through the next couple of months.