Grieving Through the Holidays

Garrett Walkup, RVNAhealth Spiritual and Pastoral Care Coordinator, recently held an in-person class through RVNAhealth’s Wellness Academy called “Grieving Through the Holidays.” For those who did not attend and are grieving a loss this holiday season, Garrett has shared with us some highlights from his class.

This holiday season may be the first since experiencing the death of someone close to you. For lack of a more clinical term, grief is “sticky.” It attaches, not just to you, but to times and places. Instead of holiday traditions bringing us — as the song says — “comfort and joy,” they stir up memories and trigger emotions that also bring up pain and sadness.

You may be saying to yourself, “I don’t want to be of good cheer.” If this is you, here are ten thoughts and reflections that may help.

There is no right or wrong way to celebrate a holiday after the death of a loved one. If an occasion or tradition is too painful, don’t do it. If you need to minimize decorations, that’s okay too.

Be kind and gracious to yourself. Grieving consumes your physical and emotional energy, and holidays place additional demands on that.

Take care of yourself. Don’t neglect eating, hydration, exercise, and sleep.

Create boundaries. You may need to leave early, arrive late or say “no” to engagements. Be flexible with social commitments.

Create support for yourself. Don’t be afraid to ask for help with items such as shopping, meal prep, or getting a ride.

Have that one person. Have one person you can be your real, raw and authentic self with.

Plan ahead. You may have found this already, but grief causes brain fog so make lists and prioritize. If your loved one had a special role like carving the turkey or saying the table prayer, think of someone else to take that tradition.

Don’t feel guilty about enjoying yourself. Laughing, singing and having fun is healing to your soul.

Embrace the emotion. If you feel a rogue wave of emotion come on, don’t turn away from it, welcome the unwelcome. It is better to go through it than try to hold it off.

Create new traditions. There is a tension between looking back to remember your loved one, and facing your new reality. How can you do both? Making new memories does not erase old ones…

  • Light a candle
  • Donate or serve others in their memory
  • Serve their favorite food
  • Collect stories in a box and share

We at RVNAhealth hope you find peace as you mourn and joy for your spirit this holiday season.

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