Choose to honor what feels right for you. There are no rules.
After my Mom died, I chose to honor the traditions of my family while adding some new. Honoring the traditions of my childhood after my Mom died felt comforting and in some ways empowering knowing that I was carrying on our family traditions in strength, in memory, in sorrow, in love, in the powerful knowing that my memories of holidays past would guide me to create more memories, different memories, new memories as I continue to live and celebrate life. I make an annual donation to Hospice in my Mom's memory and in honor of the compassionate care they provided during her last days. I also light a candle that burns for 24 hours, a yahrzeit candle, and say a prayer of remembrance and love on holidays. My brothers and I honor our Mom with her favorite key lime pie at family holidays, milestones and celebrations which always makes me smile. If the thought of preparing Mom’s cookies or Dad’s roast is just too painful choose to make something different. There are no rules, if you want breakfast for your holiday dinner so be it. Get creative. Bring to the holidays this year what creates space, what makes you feel emboldened, able to come to the table with family or friends and honor the light in you that continues to shine even in the darkness of grief.
If you choose not to join family and friends this holiday season consider volunteering. Share the love that you are missing with others who may have never had it.
If leaving your home feels like too much perhaps you will choose to engage in an act of loving kindness by making a donation in your loved ones name. Donate to the Humane Society if your loved one was an animal lover, to the Foodbank if your loved one was a foodie, to the library if your loved one was an avid reader, and so on.
Choose to give yourself the gift of extreme self care this holiday season. Holidays can be intensely emotional. If you feel the need to cry, cry. If you feel the need to scream, scream. Feel your feelings and nurture yourself in the most loving and compassionate of ways. Surround yourself in comfort by engaging your five senses in self care. Rest if you feel like resting. Dance if you feel like dancing. Go for a walk. Take a long hot bath or shower. Breathe. Breathe in strength and healing, breathe out pain and suffering. Know that all feelings are okay. Grieving is hard work. Grieving during the holidays can be especially difficult. There is not one way or a right way to grieve. Remember your loved one:
Go through pictures of treasured memories.
Make ornaments with photographs of your loved one.
Light candles and say a prayer in their honor
Make their favorite foods.
Listen to their favorite music.
Create a memory box: have each family member write down a memory on a piece of paper, read it out loud and then put it in the box.
Each year you can add more memories while sharing memories from the years before.
If remembering your loved one feels like too much, if it is just too painful, then choose instead to focus on remembering yourself:
Make your favorite foods. Listen to your favorite music.
Watch your favorite movie or shows.
Write holiday wishes for yourself about how you hope to feel next year at this time.
Make resolutions for yourself, for your healing.
Gift yourself faith in yourself, in your healing, in your ability to endure the deep pain of grief while nurturing and caring for yourself. Be kind to yourself.
There are so many things in life we do not get to choose but we can choose how we endure pain. We can choose how we care for ourselves, honor ourselves, and encourage ourselves to continue on. We can choose to honor our loved ones by living our lives with deeper meaning, connection, and awareness of just how lucky we are to have loved and been loved, and that we can love and be loved still. Choose to honor yourself. Choose to give yourself the gift of choice this holiday season.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR-----------------------------------------------------
I graduated from the SSA Master of Arts program at the University of Chicago and have been working as part of a private practice for over a decade. My areas of focus include working with individuals and families on grief, loss, bereavement, and difficult life transitions resulting from illness, marital conflict, divorce, and other complicated, fractured relationships. My focus as a cognitive behavioral therapist is to empower individuals to take meaningful and purposeful action to create desired change in their lives. I teach clients about the power of choice, wise minded thinking, and productive communication strategies as stepping stones to healing and transformation.
My father died one month before my twin brother and I were born. Our mother raised four kids as a single parent with love, humor, strength, and a no nonsense style that prepared us to live fully. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor my senior year of college and died peacefully at home 18 months later. I am grateful to have had that gifted time as her end of life caregiver. The losses in my life continue to inform and transform me. They continue to make me stronger, more self reliant, resilient, compassionate and grateful. I truly believe that while we can not control what happens to us, or when, we can control how we respond. We can choose grace, strength and courage… the courage to remain open and to live life well.
Check out her website at: http://transformativegrief.com