Help for the Holiday Blues

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you “Be of good cheer”
It’s the most wonderful time of the year
It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap- happiest season of all

For many this truly is the happiest and most wonderful time of the year. But for those who have lost a loved one, the empty chair at the table or fewer presents under the tree can be a painful reminder of our loved ones who are no longer with us.

There are so many traditions associated with the holiday season that it can be an emotional roller coaster for someone who has recently lost a loved one,” says Nancy Kiel, bereavement coordinator for Loyola University Health System. “Many people wish they could just fast forward through the holidays, but getting through the season is possible if you give yourself permission to be flexible.”

So for all those who are grieving and mourning the loss of someone this Holiday season here’s some tips that might help make the holidays a little brighter.

  1. Discuss holiday plans as a family. Everyone is feeling the loss, so talk about what you are going to do and be willing to compromise. If you don’t like the change you made, next year you can always go back to the way you did it before.
  2. Skip the mall. Christmas shopping can be stressful even when not dealing with grief. Consider giving gift cards or shop online to avoid the mall madness. Remember it’s not just about the presents, but about the presence of caring and supportive people.
  3. You can say no. The party invitations and social gatherings might be more difficult this year. You can say no or give yourself some breathing room by asking to RSVP at a later date. If you do go, drive yourself. This will allow you the freedom to leave at your discretion. Also, try to avoid “should people” who say “you should do this or you should do that.”
  4. Honor your loved one. Start a new tradition to honor and remember your loved one. You could light a special candle, at dinner have everyone at the table share a favorite memory or all take part in a loved one’s favorite holiday activity. Do something that would make your loved one smile.
  5. Be gentle with yourself. Do what you need to do and pamper yourself. If you need to take a nap, take a nap. Exercise is a great stress reliever, so bundle up and take a walk.
  6. It’s OK to change traditions. Do something different this year. Take a vacation somewhere hot. Skip the cooking and go to a restaurant, volunteer with those even less fortunate.

“Grief is hard work and it can be exhausting, but it is something we must do,”  advises Kiel. “If you put it on a back burner you’ll never heal. You can’t go around, over or under grief – you have to go through it. So find someone who will listen unconditionally and tell your story.”

For more information, visit www.loyolamedicine.org or call Nancy Kiel at (708) 216-1646.

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