The holidays are honestly one of the most difficult times of the year for grieving people. Whether the grief was recent, or 20 years ago, there is something about the holiday season that brings up feelings of missing your loved one anew. It can be easy to feel alone and isolated during what is considered “the most wonderful time of the year.” And while there is nothing that can completely make the holidays easier, there are some intentional strategies that you can use to help care for your heart and soul. We’ve put together a few of the hardest moments of the holidays, and ways to address them.
Handling Hard Conversations at the Holiday Table
Gathering together with family and friends during the holidays can feel so intimidating after you’ve gone through loss. It is super normal to feel really nervous and spend a lot of time worrying about how the gathering might go. Whether you are traveling for the holidays or sticking close to home, being around family and friends is just hard.
For example, if you have lost a child, it can be really triggering to be with family members who might have healthy children. If you have lost your mom or dad, it might feel really triggering to be with extended in-laws who still have their healthy parents. If you have lost a sibling, gathering with other siblings or cousins can feel heartbreaking. And even if there is not a specific family dynamic that is triggering for you, being together with family can highlight the missing chair at the table.
Thanksgiving can also be really hard, because it is so focused on finding gratitude. And even if you are still grateful for the blessings in your life, grief can make it painfully difficult to list out what you are grateful for at the dinner table. If your family has a tradition focused on listing what you are grateful for, and you’re worried about participating this year, that is ok! It can be helpful to share your feelings with your family before the gathering and creatively work together to find ways to honor the loved one you’ve lost while forgoing what can be a painful tradition after loss. It is super, super normal to want to skip out on the tradition of listing out what you are thankful for after you’ve gone through loss. It’s not something people talk about very often, but it’s not abnormal at all. Try not to beat yourself up about it – it doesn’t mean you are not grateful, it means you are grieving. There is a difference.
If you’re preparing for other holiday gatherings that might be hard, I think some of the same advice applies. Reach out beforehand to family or friends and be honest with them about how the holiday might feel for you. It can help for the family to know you are struggling and can help them prepare mentally for how to best support you in your grief.
It’s ok to Stay Home from Gatherings that Might be Hard
Here is some good truth to remember also! If gathering during the holidays sounds too difficult for your grieving heart, it is absolutely ok and normal to choose to stay home. You are allowed to prioritize your own mental and emotional health during this really hard time of year. You are not alone in feeling like socializing after your loss is too hard.
The other hard reality is that not every family or friend group is healthy enough to support you in your grief. Some people honestly are just not safe for your grieving heart and can put you in social situations that can wound or hurt you. If that is the case, take this as your permission slip to stay home and protect your heart.
Ways to Include them in your Holiday Traditions
Right after my miscarriage, my sister in law gave me a memorial ornament in honor of the baby I lost, and it became a special tradition to hang the ornament on my tree. Ever since then, I realized that one of the best and most comforting ways to acknowledge your grief during the holidays is to create new traditions that include memories of your loved one.
Each year here at laurelbox, we create new collections of holiday gifts designed to honor your loved ones. Whether you choose to send a commemorative ornament, display our In Memory Boxwood Wreath on an empty chair, light a personalized memorial candle, or display our heirloom serving board, we have designed thoughtful and intentional ways to honor your loved one at the holiday season. Be sure to head to our collection of Heartfelt Holiday Gifts if you are interested in a gift for yourself or a loved one. And if you want to support a loved one, but are unsure of what to send, we offer a collection of curated holiday gifts to honor their hearts!