Editor’s note: The following is from the Canadian Mental Health Association, B.C. Division.
With all the messages of family togetherness and joy during the holidays, the emptiness left behind when someone passes away is in harsh contrast to what society seems to “expect” us to feel. Below are some tips to help you or someone you know get through a potentially hard time:
n talking about the deceased person is okay. Your stress will only increase if the deceased person’s memory is allowed to become a landmine that everyone tiptoes around.
n things won’t be the same. It’s normal to feel at odds with yourself and family events when dealing with grief. Do not isolate, but limit involvement when you need to and plan new events.
n don’t let other people’s expectations dictate how your holiday will unfold. If you don’t feel like doing something this Christmas, don’t let others force you. If you do attend holiday functions, know your limits.
n seek support. Talk to your friends and family about how you feel. Also, there are support groups for people who are grieving. Being around people who know what you’re going through can be very comforting.
n plan a special time to celebrate the memories of the person who died. Some families develop creative rituals like decorating a miniature Christmas tree at the cemetery, donating money to a charity, singing a favourite seasonal song, reciting a special prayer before the evening meal, or even just lighting a candle. Symbolic gestures like these can help families validate their feelings of sadness and overcome the guilt of enjoying special occasions.