No two people grieve in the same way. That can make grief hard to navigate at the best of times. The process of grieving is so subjective – unique to each person and each relationship.
When days you spent with your loved one come up, be they holidays or other special days, you might feel grief more intensely, or differently than you would on other days. While no guide can provide you with the exact steps to process your grief, having an idea about what emotions might come up can be useful. Knowing what your options are can help, too.
Reminders and Returning Grief
Grief doesn’t follow a linear path. When you’re reminded of a person you love, you might experience any of a wide range of emotions. You might experience many emotions at the same time. No matter which emotions you feel, no matter how conflicting they seem, remind yourself that it’s okay to feel the way you do.
You might experience physical symptoms like fatigue and loss of appetite. You might be irritable but still, feel the desire to spend time with others. You might be happy and sad at the same time.
Holidays tend to remind people of loved ones for apparent reasons; special occasions are often emotional times that come packed with memories. Thinking back on the time you’ve spent with your loved ones around this time is entirely natural. The emotions that come up may change quickly, or they may stay around for days – allow yourself to feel all those emotions.
You might feel pretty good during the holidays, and that might make you wonder why you aren’t feeling more grief. Remind yourself that the process is different for everyone; not feeling a certain way isn’t a comment on who you are.
Don’t hesitate to talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling; some people process better alone while others need to have a conversation.
Planning Your Holidays
When you’re grieving, it can be difficult to anticipate how your emotions will affect you. That means you might be excited to celebrate a holiday in the morning but feel overwhelmed in the evening. You always have options; here are a few:
Make plans that can be canceled. If you’re comfortable, explain your situation to people you’re making plans with. Most people understand that the grieving process is complex, and they’re likely to be sympathetic if you need to call off your plans, even at the last minute.
Ask someone else to host events. You might be the one who typically hosts these events. Opting to ask someone else to host can be helpful for some; it gives you room to maneuver if you end up needing time to yourself. Those who want to host might ask for more help from friends and family than usual – more often than not, your loved ones will be more than happy to lend a helping hand.
Honor Your Loved One, Honor Your Grief
There are many ways you can honor your loved one during special days and holidays. It can be as simple as thinking about them, keeping them in your prayers, or any other way you might remember them. Taking time during special days to reminisce can be cathartic.
You can create new traditions and rituals for these days. You might, for example, write a love note to a loved one on Valentine’s Day. You might light candles for their birthday, then blow them out and make a wish. These suggestions might not work for you, and that’s okay; your rituals should be uniquely yours.
Taking Care of Your Family
You might not be the only person in your family who is experiencing grief. For young children, grief can be somewhat difficult to talk about. To help children cope with grief and loss, let them know that it’s okay if they feel a mix of emotions around this time. It’s okay to show your emotions, too, and it can be helpful to reminisce about your loved one with your children. Let them know that if they feel tired, stressed, sad, or any other kind of way, it’s okay to talk to you about it.
Taking Care of Yourself
In the days before special days, or on special days themselves, it can be a good idea to take some time out of your day to take care of yourself. Meditation and exercise can be helpful. Some alternative approaches to self-care like acupuncture can help ease the grieving process; you might also benefit from a day at the spa, going to see a movie or other types of self-care. At the very least, it is always helpful to take a few moments to do some deep, conscious breathing.
Written by Adrian Martin