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holidays after a loss

How to Handle the Holidays After a Loss

There are many holidays during Winter, and usually, they are a time of joy and celebration. However, the holidays may be more difficult after suffering the loss of a loved one. Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or the New Year, these are times where grief might be especially present. If you have an indoor urn, you could be wondering how it fits into holiday décor. Or maybe you’re too sad to decorate. Finding the usual holiday activities painful or sad is a normal part of grief. 

Family, friends, and togetherness are the main themes of any holiday celebration. When you’re grieving the loss of someone you love, seeing people being together can be particularly triggering. While this is normal, it doesn’t make watching other people happily celebrating while you’re feeling lonely and sad any easier. It’s ok for you to change how you approach the holidays. Grief is individual and takes the time it takes to heal. 

holidays after death

Holidays After Loss

Whatever holidays you celebrate, you likely celebrated with the person you’ve lost. The first round of holidays after a loss can be especially difficult, as the acts of celebrating can be poignant reminders of your loved one. While you’re healing, you may experience some of these common symptoms of grief.

  1. Frequent bouts of crying
  2. Feeling depressed
  3. Trouble with sleep
  4. Sleeping too much
  5. Loss of appetite

Don’t be surprised if these grief symptoms intensify over the holidays. Come up with a plan of action to help yourself cope, and make sure it includes being gentle and compassionate towards yourself. Especially if you’re not perfect at executing your plan of self-care. 

Ideas for Coping

  • Recognize that this could be a painful time

This bears repeating because simply acknowledging that the upcoming holidays are probably going to be extra painful can make it easier if it happens. You may have come to a plateau of healing, so holiday-inspired waves of grief may seem to come out of the blue. These feelings will be easier to handle once you can remember that it’s the holidays. As much as you’re able to, prepare for needing more emotional care and space. Keep going to support groups, or consider finding one. This also might be an excellent time to start or re-start individual therapy, or to ask friends to listen while you process your grief and memories. Make time for nourishing activities like hikes, time with friends, fun movies, or other activities that fill you with cheer.

  • Change up your routine

Giving yourself new experiences is a good way to get out of a depressive place, or at least add some pleasure or fun to your day. Try going to new places, like a day trip to a nearby lake, or a new coffee shop. Or, your change could be as simple as driving to work a different way, or buying a different type of coffee. Making changes to your routine can help bring you into the present moment and give your brain something new to think about. 

  • Be thoughtful about traditions

Your holiday traditions may never feel the same as they did when your loved one was alive and that’s ok. Decide what traditions you want to keep and what traditions you want to change. It’s ok if things are, and need to be, different this year. Permit yourself to discard traditions that no longer serve you. This could be temporary, you could always pick a tradition back up after you’ve healed more. 

Choosing which traditions you want to keep will allow you to go into this holiday season prepared. The traditions you decide to keep might feel even more meaningful now that they are being chosen with intention. 

Finally, create a new tradition that honors the memory of your deceased loved one. They will be present in everyone’s hearts and memories, so honor them with a new tradition or ritual. It could be lighting a special candle or watching their favorite movie, or both. Consider creating a memory box or stocking where you and other family members and friends can write down special memories of the beloved deceased. Then, choose a time to get together and read the memories aloud. One special, and delicious, way to remember your loved one is to include one (or a few) of their favorite holiday dishes on the menu this year. A fun project for the whole family is making a memorial holiday decoration to help you all remember. Another way to create connection and remember your loved one is to send out holiday cards to their friends, especially ones you’ve lost touch with. Other people choose to honor their loved one is to leave a seat empty at the table for them. There are endless ways to remember your loved one this holiday, pick one that feels special to you.

  • Don’t be afraid to change the location

Especially if these are the first holidays since your loss, think about changing your location for celebrating. Even if you decide to not celebrate, a change of scenery could help soothe the grief of this season. Of course, you might prefer the comfort of your home, or wherever you usually spend the holidays, and that’s fine too. However, if you’re struggling, consider a trip somewhere or maybe ask your family if the celebration could be done in a different home this year.

  • Talk about your holiday plans

As much as you’re able, try to communicate with your family or friends about holiday plans. Let them know in advance if you’re skipping, need the location to be different, or if you think you might be bowing out early. Your friends and family likely want to support you right now, so communicating with them about what you need and where you’re at will allow them to do so. Let them know that you are planning new traditions or something to remember and honor your deceased loved one. This will allow you to make sure everyone agrees. There might be things others who were close to the one you lost want to do as memorials. So, it’s important to talk to everyone to make sure people are comfortable and to then make plans. This is especially important if you or someone else is wanting something very different. This might be the year to make alternative plans, and it will be easier on everyone if this is discussed in advance. 

  • Remember grief is individual

The people you spend the holidays with are likely grieving as well. Someone close to you may be grieving very differently from you. The ways that people are grieving might potentially clash with yours. For example, you might need a quiet, low-key holiday, while another family member is baking, sending cards, and decorating up a storm. Try not to judge anyone for how they’re handling their grief. Everyone grieves differently and no two journeys through loss will look the same. 

  • Practice truthfulness

This is not the year to say yes to things you can’t handle. While it’s not a guarantee you’ll get what you want, you can and should tell those around you what you want and don’t want this year regarding the holidays. You’re grieving and can handle what you can handle. If that’s not a lot this year, be honest and take care of yourself. If you need people around you, speak up. 

  • Give to others

You could donate to charity in your lost loved one’s name. Be sure to pick one that was important to them. Collecting food to donate to a food bank, or volunteering somewhere might distract you from your grief. They say that helping others makes you feel good, so give it a try. You could also buy a gift that your loved one would have enjoyed, and donate that to charity. Depending on your energy levels you could take on a bigger giving project, like adopting an entire family through a church or Salvation Army. 

  • Schedule time to remember

Plan a time to visit your loved one’s grave, memorial site, or favorite place. You could even leave holiday items there like a grave blanket, wreath, or holiday flowers. Perhaps you tell them about how much you miss them and how the holidays aren’t the same without them. And, they’d probably want to hear about your plans and any new traditions you’re starting. Deciding to face your grief head-on this way will likely leave you feeling more secure and clear in the long run.

  • Display your loved one’s urn

If you want to, displaying your indoor urn or keepsake urn can be a good way to feel connected to your loved one during the holidays. It is a visual reminder of your deceased loved one and might bring a sense of their presence to the holidays. Other friends and family members might find a sense of comfort from having the urn on display as well. 

The Living Urn makes a wide variety of indoor urns and keepsakes, any of which would look lovely in your home. They offer their classic, bamboo urn, which is made ecologically. The Eco Home Urn is an elegant, handcrafted option. It’s made from bamboo and shaped like a small chest. The Living Urn also has two planter urns. One is a high quality ceramic urn and has room for a medium-size house plant or small bonsai tree. The other is a modern shape, made from wood with a small planter. 
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