The holidays can be a difficult time for those of us who have recently experienced the loss of a loved one. For some people, the holidays can be a reminder that someone you loved is not there. Often times the holiday season marks a significant events that, in the past, included our loved one and for the first time, they are not physically present. It not uncommon to experience a heightened sense of loss during this time. You may even feel like you have regressed in the grief process, but it can be part of the process of learning to live with loss.
It can be helpful to share the significance of your loss with those around you.
Holiday traditions provide a great opportunity to honor the memory of your loved one and respect your own personal sense of loss. They also provide an opportunity for others to take part in the healing process with you.
Here are few healing traditions that you may consider incorporating into your holidays. They are divided into three areas: activities, physical remembrances and shared memories.
- Passing the torch. Often what we miss the most during the holidays are those activities that our loved one typically completed. When a role or activity is taken on by another family member, the torch is passed. Passing the torch helps the family to heal in several ways. It adds a sense of wholeness to the family system, can provide a sense of purpose and it honors activities that were meaningful to the family.
- Displaying keepsakes. The holidays provide us with an occasion to display special keepsakes. Keepsakes can be new or old. It may be a new Christmas ornament that you found that you are sure would have made your loved one laugh out loud. Or it may be an old candleholder that has been in the family for years. The main thing is that the keepsake makes you feel close to your loved one who has passed on.
- Sharing favorite memories. Take time to discuss your favorite memories of your loved one with those who are still physical present in your life. Sharing specific memories helps us to re-experience the good times and distinguish the impact that our loved one had on shaping who we have become.
Getting through the holidays when you are grieving can be difficult and new traditions can help. However, if you find it difficult to participate in holiday activities due to your feeling of loss, then it may be time to seek the help of a therapist or counselor.
Jackie Dunagan, LAMFT
jdunagan @ GROWcounseling.com