Your Holiday Grief Toolkit: Piecing Together a Holiday without your Loved One
There is perhaps no milestone so daunting for the newly bereaved as the holiday season: a time typically spent celebrating family and enjoying the company of loved ones.
Getting through your first holiday season without a loved one is difficult, but certainly not impossible. Just as you have weathered the grief process so far, rest assured that you will also weather the holidays. Ryan Colgan, a grief counselor at Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro (HPCG), says that the biggest misconception people have about holiday grief is that it has to be difficult. “Anticipation is usually so much harder than the actual day. Most people end up coming back to me and saying ‘I don’t know why I worried so much.’”
You can make preparations for the time ahead by building your own “holiday grief toolkit”, which is comprised of four main steps. The worksheet attached below will guide you through all four, but they are summarized as follows:
- Identify your authentic wishes. The first (and most important) step is being honest with yourself about how you want or need this holiday to look. Grief is an intensely personal process, so whether you feel you need to be alone watching movies all day or out celebrating as you usually would, you have every right to do so. Start by asking yourself the question, “In a perfect world, what would I do on that day?” If you’re unsure of what you want, try to think through (or write out) several different scenarios to see which feels best to you.
- Drop your expectations. Don’t force yourself to do anything you’re not up for. Remember: it’s only one year! It’s okay to do something different. Give yourself grace, and don’t feel like you need to be rigid.
- Make a plan. Even if you anticipate spending the day alone, planning out the day ahead of time can help you know what to expect. When you make a plan, even if it’s something as simple as going and renting a Redbox to watch, you are giving yourself something concrete on which to focus. Picturing the day ahead of time will make it less intimidating.
- Find an outlet. Many find that talking to someone, be it a counselor or a close friend, helps them process and understand their feelings. Your outlet can be talking or anything else that helps you work through your emotions (yoga, journaling, running, cooking). If you don’t know what helps, try a few different things and see what feels best.
The toolkit worksheet can be downloaded below, in addition to other materials and resources that you may find useful.
If you would like to speak to one of our bereavement counselors, please feel free to call our Counseling and Education Center anytime at 336.621.5565.