Many people find the year-end holiday season to be the most stressful time of year. This is an especially difficult time for those who are working through their grief after the death of a loved one. I am reaching back into my archives for some things that have helped me over the years since my mother died suddenly more than 12 years ago. Yes I have copied and culled from emails and conversations with many, many people to produce this. What follows is not "mine". It is a gift from many grieving hearts to yours, hoping it will help you get through the season.
1. You don't have to go to that function / party / get-together. You can say no. You have to take care of you, if you're going to be any good to anybody. Other people are not the ones who get to judge what you need right now. They will say, "You never go out; you need to get out." No. Here's what "never go out" looks like: you can't function well enough to dress yourself and go get groceries. Unless you're basically naked and starving, you get out enough. Trust me. You "got out" of bed, didn't you?
2. If you do go out, make sure there is somebody there (the more the better) to look after you. Check with them ahead of time. You'll need someone to pull you away from all the people who have to tell you how 'sorry' they are -- and want to offer their theories on why your loved one bought it. (Inevitably, these are the people who never called.) They'll hurt you and/or make you angry, so have someone who can act as a buffer zone. When you get to the party, find out right away where the bathroom is so you can make a tactical retreat when necessary.
3. Don't drink. Believe me, you'll drink more than you expected to if you do. People will push alcohol on you to help you feel better -- which really means that they want to feel better. If people try to push you to drink, move away from them or leave the party. Even if you successfully numb the pain for a while, it will only be worse later.
4. Nurture yourself in your own way. Get a massage, treat yourself to a dinner of ice cream and cookies, spend a day in your pajamas, rent or buy musicals. Take hot baths. Go for a long walk. You deserve it -- besides, one of the sad things that death teaches us is that this life is not forever. Don't postpone your joy. [See also my longer post about Holiday Survival: How to Take Care of Yourself.)
5. If you can, shop during the day. Take time off from work if you have to. Try to go with a friend. You don't want to go when the stores are the most crowded. If you can, do your shopping online and avoid the crowds and insanity, which will just make you feel like the only person in the world without a loved one. It is okay to buy a gift for the loved one who died -- a special ornament for the tree perhaps. Or to get something for yourself that you just know is the kind of thing they would have gotten you.
6. It's okay if you don't celebrate this year. You don't have to put up lights or bake cookies unless you really want to. After all, it's your house. It's your life. It's your grief. The neighbors and relatives can stuff it -- the only people who matter are the ones who live with you.
[See also my post on Grief and the Holidays: Answers for the "How are you?" question.]
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