December 4, 2013

Tips to Survive the Holidays

Schricker,-Mary-Dec2010By Mary Schricker Gemberling

The following is an excerpt from Handling the Holidays by Therese Rando, PhD.

One of the most painful issues to deal with is how to survive the holidays after the death of a loved one Because holidays are supposed to be family times, and because of the extraordinary (although unrealistic) expectations that you should feel close to everyone, this time of year can underscore the absence of your deceased loved one more than any other time. Bittersweet may be the best word to describe what you are feeling. You feel the sweetness of the holidays, but the bitterness of your loved one’s absence. Put together, they can give you a rich feeling of love for those present and for those gone whom you will never forget The important thing to remember is that you and your family do have options about how to cope with the holidays. These are a few things to keep in mind.

• As much as you would like to skip the entire holiday season, this if impossible. Therefore, it will be wise for you to take control of the situation by facing it squarely and planning for what you do and do not want to do to get through this time.

• Realize that the anticipation of pain at the holidays is always worse than the actual day.

• Recognize that what you decide this year can be changed next year; you can move to something new or back to the old way. Decide what is right for you and your family now. Don’t worry about all the other holidays to come in the years ahead. You will be at different places in your mourning and in your life then.

• Ask yourself and your loved ones to decide what is important for you to make your holidays meaningful and bearable. Then, through compromise and negotiation, see if everyone can get a little of what he or she wants and needs. Give-and-take is important here.

• Recognize that the holidays are filled with unrealistic expectations for intimacy, closeness, relaxation, and joy for all people-not just for the bereaved. Try not to buy into this for yourself-you already have enough to contend with.

• Be aware of the pressures, demands, depression, increased alcohol intake, and fatigue that come with holidays. As a bereaved person, you may feel these more than others. Take time to take care of yourself during this time. You will need it even more.

• Re-evaluate your family traditions. Ask yourself and your surviving loved ones whether you need to carry them on this year or whether you should begin to develop some new ones. Perhaps you can alter you traditions slightly so that you can still have them to a certain extent, but don’t have to highlight your loved ones absence more than it already is.

• Do something for someone else. Although you may feel deprived because of the loss of your loved one, reaching out to another can bring you some measure of fulfillment. For example give a donation in your loved one’s name. Invite a guest to share in your festivities. Give food to a needy family.

Mary Schricker Gemberling, former educator and Seniors Real Estate Specialist, is the author of two books, The West End Kid and Labor of Love; My Personal Journey Through the World of Caregiving (available at www.amazon.com )

Filed Under: Family