The holidays are almost here, and you might be sitting there and wondering, “How am I ever going to get though this time?” You may also be secretly thinking to yourself, “There is no way that I can possibly muster up enough strength or energy to make this a happy time for my children. God knows, it certainly won’t be that way for me.”
Take heart; these thoughts may only be partially true. Although it can never be the same as it was, it is possible for you to experience a meaningful holiday season. It will just be in a different way than you did before your loss.
The truth is that whether you think you can handle it or not, the holidays are going to arrive and right on their usual time schedule.
So, how are some ways you can cope and move as gracefully as possible through the next couple of months? Here are some tips to keep in mind that may make this season a little easier.
1. Do what feels right for you and your family. In other words, do what makes you feel comfortable and NOT what others think will make you feel comfortable. When making holiday plans, include your children and/or other family members in the decision process on how this season might look. Afford your children the opportunity to voice an opinion on how they would like to spend the holidays. They might surprise you with their innovative responses. Be honest with your family members about necessary changes. For example, perhaps it might be too hard to keep up with some of the labor intensive traditions previously followed.
2. Keep it simple. Do not set unrealistic goals for yourself. The world will not end if you don’t bake your normal holiday goodies this year – or even the next. It will all return in time, if it is meant to. Additionally, maybe you won’t mail holiday cards this year; friends and family will understand. You could shoot for next year, or even the next to complete this task.
When you feel ready and organized enough, you might tackle the big job of trying to compose a holiday letter that will let people know how you are doing. The truth is that it’s tough to feel festive or to reach out through correspondence when you only have sadness to share (not to mention the lack of time). So, just wait until it is your heart, and not your unhealthy guilt, that tells you it’s time to write that letter. If you do feel compelled to get something out, make it as easy on yourself as possible. Disperse the letter through e-mail or write a generic letter that you can just photocopy and simply personalize with the salutation and your signature. If you are not ready to share your feelings, keep the letter’s focus on the kids because this can provide a whole host of joyful things about which to write.
3. Let friends or family help you and the kids decorate for the holidays. Moreover, if you do feel obligated to entertain, make it easy on yourself. Have a pot-luck dinner and delegate or ask for lots of help.
4. Bring a decisive friend with you when you shop. If you’re still feeling foggy, having someone who is efficient and task oriented will make shopping for holiday presents less of a daunting task. Another way to simplify your life is to try theme buying; pick one store from which you buy all your gifts. As an example, for the women in your life, try Victoria’s Secret. In addition to their undergarments line, they have holiday CDs, pajamas, makeup, and perfume. Throw in a bottle of wine (or treats for the youngsters), and you’re set!
Using mail order catalogs are also a great way to go. They let you avoid the crowds while you shop at 3 AM in the comfort of your own home. Find some kid friendly catalogs, and let your children point to what they want. If your orders don’t reach you in time, cut the picture out of the catalog, wrap it in a pretty box and let the person know it’s on its way.
5. Your kids might want to buy you a present. Previously, they probably went shopping with their other parent. Now, if everyone else is getting gifts, they might feel sad that you are left out. To avoid this situation, ask a friend or relative to take your kids shopping. Be aware, younger kids might also want to get a gift for their deceased parent and “ask Santa” to take it to heaven for them.
6. Take the time to share recollections of the deceased parent with your children. Look at old videos and pictures to spark fond memories. You might even visit the grave site and decorate it so that the missing parent can be included in the season’s festivities. While at the grave site, your youngsters could leave messages (or those gifts for Santa to deliver) for their deceased parent.
7. Most importantly, take care of yourself. Get plenty of rest because exhaustion can alter your perspective and make even the littlest task overwhelming.
The holiday season is usually about traditions, which Webster defines as an established or customary pattern of thought, action or behavior. Let this year be the inception of new traditions. Change is always hard, but try to remember that it is also promoting growth and the development of strong coping muscles in both you and your children.
The changes you implement this holiday season may emanate from necessity or desire; whatever the reason, it is part of everyone’s mission in life to evolve and continuously move forward. And while you are moving forward, you can still take your loved one’s memory with you. He or she will always remain in a special place in your heart reserved just for him or her.
This holiday season, let’s all remember to laugh more, love more and to forgive more. Take the time for the ones you love and remember the ones you have lost. Enjoy the short sojourn you are given to walk the Earth and make each moment count!