Grief & Goodwill: How to Enjoy the Holidays without Letting Go of the Grief

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Grief & Goodwill: How to Enjoy the Holidays without Letting Go of the Grief

The first holiday season after the death of a loved one may seem like a period that you want to skip over and avoid instead of going through and enjoy. The thought of the Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas morning breakfast table having an empty seat without the warmth and presence of your close friend or family member may seem brutal in theory to even think of turning into a reality. However, you can successfully enjoy the holiday season without forcing the memory of your loved one under the rug.

Analyze Your Traditions in Advance
There may be certain family traditions during the holiday season that will remind you of your loved one the most. Perhaps it is even something he or she took care of each year that would essentially leave an unforgettable hole in the festivities this year. The best way to embrace your grief and still enjoy the holidays is to consider and examine these traditions in advance. There may be some that you can still keep the same or even use as a tribute to your loved one.

On the other hand, there may be certain traditions that would just be too unbearable to maintain or even revive this year. Have an open and honest discussion with your family weeks in advance to determine which traditions you want to keep and which you will put aside for now. Doing so will allow everyone to mentally and emotionally brace for the experience while still having plenty of time to take everyone’s feelings into consideration.

Add Your Loved One to the Experience
A great way to embrace your grief and enjoy your holiday season is to keep your loved one as part of your festivities and traditions. How you decide to do this will be up to you and your family to decide, because there is a vast number of ways in which this can be done. For instance, perhaps your family can add a visit to your loved one’s gravesite to the itinerary so that you are still blocking out time to cherish their memory and allow your other family members to do the same. If a gravesite visit would be too difficult, then perhaps having a framed picture of your loved one on the mantle or near the dinner table will help you to feel their presence and warmth emotionally

You could also consider:
• singing their favorite song
• cooking and enjoying their favorite dish or recipe
• adding a “memory stocking” or “memory box” to the decorations
• writing a letter to them and placing it under the Christmas tree
• buy a gift for your loved one and donate it to charity
• donate money to your loved one’s favorite charity in their honor

There is an endless list of ideas that you can use to find the perfect way to honor your loved one while enjoying the holidays. Keep in mind that this will not replace their physical presence or completely take away the sadness associated with their absence. However, it will help.

Do Not Be Afraid to Reach Out for Guidance
There is nothing wrong with ventilating or even seeking a little assistance from a professional Allen therapist or counselor to get through the holiday season. That first Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve without your loved one may seem unbearable, unforeseeable and unforgivable. You may feel as if, by celebrating the holidays without your loved one, you are leaving them and their memory behind – perhaps even disgracing their memory. The beauty of the holiday season is spending quality time with your family, creating new memories and following past traditions. As shown above, you can still do all of these things while embracing your grief and cherishing the memory of your loved one along the way.

About the Author:

Jennifer Slingerland Ryan knows a thing or two about kids and families. First, she knows they are joyous, exhilarating, loving and so darn fun. Second, she knows they suck your life dry and make you weep like a baby. By day she’s a psychotherapist; by night she’s a mom and wife. She claims to love therapizing couples, educating parents, reading dystopian fiction and sleeping in her free time (read: she never sleeps). Jennifer has spent over 12 years in private practice working with individuals, couples, and parents who are faced with kid-drama, mamma-drama, and family-drama, and she claims that although some stories make a grown woman cry, she loves it.