Holidays From the Heart

There are ways to turn a season of loss into one filled with meaning.

BY: Carol Staudacher


As if it isn't enough when you're grieving, along come the holidays. Most likely, you've always spent them in a certain way. Your home may have been the hub of celebration and activity, or you and your loved one may have always accepted the invitations of particular friends or relatives.

This year will be different. Your grief will be present, changing, possibly permeating, the way you feel about the holidays. And it will reshape your approach to them. You may find yourself wishing that the upcoming days would speed by as quickly as possible so as not to prolong your personal torment.

But you don't have to be the holidays' victim: There are ways to take the dread out of this celebratory period. Start by deciding that you will not just let the holidays happen to you. Instead, you'll exert some influence over them. You'll make the choice to arrange your activities this season to fit your mental and emotional needs.

First, accept that you're feeling challenged, that you have your limitations. As a result, you may not have the energy or desire to follow all-or any-of the familiar traditions. You may not even wish to give them a try.

Next, talk over the situation with the friends or family with whom you usually share the holidays. Explore some ways you may want to change traditions. For example, you may still wish to host Christmas Eve dinner, but this year it can be a potluck instead of your sole responsibility. On Christmas Day, you could forego the usual visit to the neighbor's annual open house and replace it with a brief visit to your loved one's grave. In this way, you can direct your grief. With a few other friends or family members, you can enjoy some moments of quiet meditation, share some thoughts about your loved one, shed some necessary tears, and place a seasonal wreath on the grave.

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