The holiday season can be painful for those who have lost a loved one. Celebrations bring a reminder of what was and what will not be. They represent milestones that should have been met- particularly for grieving parents who should be anticipating a winter due date or dreaming of their baby's first Christmas.
Take Care of Yourself
This sounds like a no-brainer, but when grief is especially raw, everything comes back to the basics.
It's Okay to Stay Home- Or Go Out
Social gatherings might feel overwhelming. You don't have to push yourself to do anything you are not comfortable with. Look after your own needs first. If the day of the family turkey dinner rolls around and you desire solitude instead- it's okay to stay home.
It's also fine to give yourself a little push and accept an invitation to a gathering with loving support. Embrace those moments of happiness.
Some find that getting out of the house and focusing on helping others through volunteer work keeps them connected to their community and gives them a feeling of purpose.
Find Ways to Honor and Remember the Deceased
Families may light candles in memory of loved ones who have passed in the previous year (or years). Consider also setting the table and leaving a space for the family member who has died. Set out pictures and photo albums that include them. Make their favorite side dish or dessert.
Supporting Your Grieving Loved Ones
Invite them. Sometimes with the best of intentions our actions can be hurtful. Even if your friend has told you they plan to stay home, extend a (pressure-free!) invitation. They will appreciate being remembered and may decide to come.
Show up. Don't flake out if you promise to come be with your grieving friend or relative.
Make them a plate of food. Bringing food is always a good way to support someone who is grieving. Bring over dinner they can just toss in the microwave or oven to quickly heat up.
A personalized keepsake ornament, sun catcher, or wind chimes are thoughtful gifts. One year our family received a beautiful, ceramic ornament personalized with our son's name, birth date, and date of death. It came as a total surprise from a retired couple I went to church with and we cherished it! It showed that while the world was still moving on, they remembered him. A former coworker of mine still donates to The Heart Institute at Cincinnati Children's Hospital each year in memory of our son and I am surprised and thankful every time I receive the letter in the mail.
Send a card. Don't shy away from telling people you are thinking of them and acknowledging that the holiday season can be painful. Do this even if it not the first holiday season since their loved one died. I cannot reiterate enough how much it hurts to see everyone else moving on with their lives when yours has been torn apart- remember them in the coming months and years.
Looking for more resources? Check out What's Your Grief's holidays and special days listing.