Take time for yourself.Credit: Photo by alex ranaldi at FlickrCredit: Photo by alex ranaldi at Flickr

The holidays can be especially brutal to get through when you are grieving.  How is it possible to be cheerful and festive at a time like this? Well, the simple answer is, you can't.  However, there are ways to cope a little better during this time.  Everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for another.  Hopefully one of these ways will help you through a trying time. 

Get Away

I know many people who choose to go away for the holidays, especially the first Thanksgiving or Christmas  after someone passed away.  They went on a vacation that would put them in a completely different place than where they normally spent this time.  They just couldn't face being in the same house where so many cherished memories of the holidays were shared.  Going away gives them a chance to escape some of the memories and makes it easier to cope.

Don't Do What You Don't Feel Up To

After my dad passed away, I tried to make the holidays festive for my mom and brother. It was hard for all of us to be enthused, but we bravely tried to act happy for each other. I think we were all glad when it was over.  After my mom passed away, just two years later, I  couldn't face the first Christmas without her.

I didn't put up anything for Christmas, except a string of lights outside, across the garage door.  I bought presents and sent cards, but other than that, I did nothing.  I kept feeling like I was doing something wrong until I realized that it wasn't hurting anyone else.  It was ok for me to do whatever I felt, or more importantly didn't feel, like doing.  If you have children or a large family, this might be harder.  If you're more or less alone, it is ok to skip the whole thing if it helps you cope.

Help Others

It can be very helpful to get out of our own minds at a time like this.  Helping  others is a good way to do this.  Whether you volunteer for a worthy cause or just help out your friends more, it doesn't matter.  Just getting involved with something else makes you feel less alone and useful.  It also keeps your mind on something besides your grief, even though it's still there under the surface. 

You can't run away from grief, but you can set it aside, without even realizing it, by being involved in someone elses problems.  If you can help them out or cheer them up, it will make you feel better.   It will also help keep you busy and tired, possibly making getting a good nights sleep easier, something that can be hard to do when you are grieving.

Do Things Differently

Do something new and different. The first Thanksgiving after my dad passed away, we decided to not do a turkey dinner and have homemade pizza instead. Yes, pizza.  It was just too hard to know that my dad would not be cooking the turkey as he always did.  The second Christmas after he passed, we changed our large tree for a small one and put it in a new spot.  It helped in some odd way to do something new and different.

It can almost be a way of honoring the person who is no longer there.  If they couldn't be there to share what we had always done, then we wouldn't celebrate in that way anymore.  We would have that way as special memories that belonged to them.  Those memories can't be replaced or duplicated, so it was time to make different memories. 

Take Time Out When You Need It

Just because it's the holiday season doesn't mean you have to be "on" all the time. When you have children, you have to carry on for them, especially young children.  So you should try your best to keep Christmas a joyful time for them, but you have to take time for yourself too.  Grief is raw and exhausting and has to be tended to.  If you had the flu, you would take time to rest, and you have to do the same thing with grief.  When you are overwhelmed, get off by yourself and have a good cry or just take time to be alone.  Do your best, but don't think you have to do it all or do it perfectly.

These are just some ways to cope with a very difficult time.  Grief is hard enough to deal with and the holiday season makes it even harder. Try some of these and see if they help. The most important thing to remember is that you have to do, or not do, whatever is best for you.  Forget all the rules and take care of your broken heart.  The world will not stop dead in it's tracks if you don't celebrate the holidays the way you once did.  Life will go on and someday you may be ready to face putting up those special ornaments again.  Just wait until you're ready.