The holidays are supposed to be a joyful time surrounded by family and loving feelings. But what happens when someone you loved that was always part of your holiday is gone? Grieving is difficult enough, but the holidays tend to make the absence feel worse. In addition, the disparity between the happy holiday feelings others are having and the mourning you are feeling can make you feel really removed from the whole holiday spirit.
The most important thing to know is that it is OK to feel sad. Many people try to fight off the painful feelings rather than accepting the normality of their sadness. Sometimes people feel that once it is no longer the “first year” they should “get over it.” The truth is that while sadness will lessen over time, it usually doesn’t go away altogether. Each holiday without your loved one, you may feel that loss.
On the other hand some people find themselves feeling guilty if they don’t feel horribly sad and are able to enjoy themselves. This then ruins the experience and they rob themselves of the joy of the holiday to pay penance. Try to remember that your loved one would want you to be happy and that it does not in any way reflect a lack of love or respect for the person who is gone.
Taking good care of yourself helps a lot: eat healthfully, exercise regularly and get plenty of rest. Exercise diminishes feelings of stress and depression. Treat yourself nicely and don’t expect too much from yourself in planning and execution. Over-planning may be your way of distracting yourself from your sadness but then the stress of too much will likely catch up with you and make anxiety rise. Allow yourself to do less and allow others to pick up the slack.
Also remember to enjoy memories of your loved one and the holidays you spent together in the past. The temptation may be to run away and not think of them. But embracing those memories will be both sad and happy and will help the mourning process. Look at photos from past years and share stories with others who loved them, too. Celebrating both of your lives will make the holiday more meaningful.