For some people, the holidays are not characterized by the idyllic peace and joy of a Currier and Ives Christmas card or a Hallmark movie. For those who are struggling with grief, this time of year can be anything but jolly.
Grief brings with it many feelings and emotions that can be overwhelming, especially during the holiday season. Sadness is sometimes triggered even by happy memories, and can weigh heavily on a griever’s heart. Remembering how much Ashley loved Christmas sometimes makes the pain of her absence run even deeper this time of year. In the case of a person who is grieving the death of a spouse, loneliness can intensify during the holidays, causing even happy memories to bring with them a sense of emptiness.
Here are four suggestions for surviving the emotional strain of the holidays when your heart is broken by grief.
- Embrace Happy Memories.
Set aside some time to intentionally remember the good times you shared with your loved one during Christmases past. Look back through photographs of holiday activities you enjoyed together. There will probably be tears of sadness and loneliness, but they don’t have to rob you of the joy of your happy memories. Invite family members or close friends to share with you in your special time of remembering, and invite them to share their memories as well. Embrace whatever slivers of light you can find in the darkness.
- Accept the Tears
Don’t feel embarrassed if other people see you crying. Tears are a natural response to sadness and loneliness. Let them flow. You are under no obligation to explain them to anyone, but don’t be afraid to share the reason for your tears if someone asks. Those who love you will understand.
- Do Something Meaningful
One of the best ways to manage the pain of a broken heart is to turn your focus to other people and do something to help or encourage them. Provide Christmas gifts for a needy family. Take holiday treats to your local police or fire station and thank them for their service. Help a local church or charity serve food to those who are in need. Go Christmas caroling to the local nursing home. Take gifts to a children’s hospital.
- Continue Creating Memories
Those we have lost would likely not want us to quit living just because they are no longer here. Continue to keep holiday traditions, or create new ones, that will be a source of renewed joy for you and for those with whom you celebrate them. Even if the joy of these new memories is tempered by the sadness of your loss, it will provide a measure of balance for your pain.
It’s OK to be sad during the holidays when your heart is broken by grief, but it’s also OK to experience joy alongside the pain and emptiness.
Rainy Christmas, by PublicDomainPictures (Pixabay.com). Public domain. Used by permission.