Grief and the Holidays: 15 No Bullsh*t Tips to Cope
Updated: Oct 13, 2021
They say that time heals all wounds - but does it really? And who are "they" to tell us how to grieve?
This may be your first holiday without a loved one, or it may be the 17th, but one thing rings true: it still hurts. Although it may not be the same, you can still honor your loved ones around the holidays. Read on for some tips on how to still enjoy the holidays while grieving the loss of a loved one.
1. You can still visit them.
This is what Currant is all about: an inviting space where you can come hang out with your loved ones, even after death. It shouldn't be a drag. They wouldn't want it to be, would they? If you enjoyed hanging out with them and grabbing a cup of coffee, riding your bike, smelling the flowers, etc., you should still be able to do that. You don't have to feel guilty. Life goes on after death (for you, especially). Regardless of your beliefs, you should find comfort in continuing to experience the things you once loved to do with those who have passed on. Here are some ideas:
- Grab their favorite coffee order and sip it, thinking about times spent with them.
- Head to your local modern burial park (coming soon) and grab a poinsettia to decorate their space.
- Cozy up by the fire pit in their memorial space.
Let's make all of this possible.
2. Make new traditions.
Don't feel bad about making new traditions without them. They wouldn't want you to stop enjoying the holidays. You can continue celebrating the "old" way and add some new things into the mix, or you can completely change it up! Here are some ideas to add some new tradition to your holidays, whether you are alone or with friends/family:
- Visit a soup kitchen or local charity to help out during the holidays.
- Drive through a light show.
- Ice skate outdoors.
The possibilities are endless, and you shouldn't limit yourself. Life is limitless.
3. Do some self-care.
You can't take care of anyone if you haven't taken care of yourself. You can wallow, but most importantly, distract your mind with something relaxing. Here are some favorite self-care ideas, but self-care means something different to everyone:
- Take a bubble bath.
- Read a book.
- Light a cozy candle.
- Rewatch a series.
- Cuddle with your pets under a fluffy blanket.
- Drink tea with a face mask on.
- Journal out those feelings.
4. Focus on celebrating those still around you.
If one thing rings true, it's that mortality becomes so much more obvious once you've experienced a loss. Instead of dwelling on the negative aspects of this, focus on how you can make your time on earth fun and memorable! Give those loved ones a call today. Write them a letter via snail mail, even. Go see a movie (once pandemic risks are over). Give them a hug. Don't worry about tomorrow - it won't stop anything from happening. Instead, cherish what you have.
5. Write out (or doodle) your thoughts.
This goes along with self-care, but it's really important to get those thoughts swimming in your head out and onto some paper. It could be digital paper, but we prefer the old-fashioned way. Something about the act of putting pen to paper and writing freely is therapeutic. Don't just keep your feelings bottled up inside. You can vent to friends and family, but sometimes your deepest thoughts only come out when you're alone with your thoughts. Make sure they have a place to land.
6. Pay attention to your dreams.
It's often thought that loved ones that have passed on can visit you in your dreams. Not much is known about why we dream, so it's certainly possible! But whatever you believe, it's important to pay attention to the contents of your dreams. They can inform how you are feeling in your waking life (whether you know it consciously or not!). Teeth falling out? You're too stressed! Head back to tip #3 or #5! And who knows? Maybe your dreams can help you work out some deep-rooted anxieties and fears you have about death. It can't hurt to try.
7. Add their favorite food to your holiday menu! Or simply have that extra slice of pumpkin pie.
Even if they're not here to eat their favorite jellied cranberry sauce from a can, it's still a nice thought to pick it up (as long as you will eat it!). Food is such a large part of most of our lives. It brings us together. The smell of cooking warms up a home. Don't stop enjoying the little things. If you don't happen to like their favorite holiday food, just eat an extra piece of pie - in their honor, of course.
8. Set your goals with that loved one in mind.
Now that you've done some self-care and indulged a bit around the holidays, you're probably motivated to set some healthy goals. This doesn't have to be fitness, but it certainly can be! When you're breaking out your planner for the new year, keep your loved one in mind. What would make them proud? Add at least a couple small goals (that you can hit and feel proud of!) that you think they would like to see you pursue.
9. Know that you won't stop being sad - and that's okay. But you will get stronger.
Like we said in the beginning, time doesn't always heal all wounds. It's not that you'll never recover. You will. But it's okay to be sad when you think about them. It's not okay to let that sadness consume you for the rest of your life. Move on, and don't feel guilty about it! Also don't feel guilty about moving on AND feeling sad at the same time! It's entirely possible.
10. Donate to a cause in their honor.
We mentioned this when talking about new traditions, but in this case, think of a cause that your loved one was really passionate about. Did they donate to an animal shelter during their time? What about donating clothes to Goodwill, even? Keep their legacy alive by helping those that deserve it (and that your loved one would want to help if they could). It will not only help others, but it will bring a sense of meaning and purpose to your life.
Did your loved one want an eco-friendly burial, but there just wasn't the option in time? Donate to a cause like Currant to make it possible for all the generations to come, before it's too late! They would appreciate it (and you could always have a renewal of sorts for their memorial in the future).
11. Recognize that you're not alone (even if it feels like it).
Even if the loved one that passed was your only friend, closest family member, or even your life partner, you are still not alone. Yes, you may feel lonely. You are valid in that feeling. There are other people feeling lonely out there, too, though. Don't catastrophize your loneliness: it isn't the end of the world. In fact, looking for support can open you up to a whole new world! With the global reach of the internet, you can find online support groups, like-minded people in forums, etc. There even may be a local support group for grief in your area. Whomever you choose to find support and solace in, make sure they add positivity to your life. This can be in the form of you lifting them up, as well, but don't let them drag you down. This is entirely possible and can hurt more than help. Find those that want to lift EACH OTHER up. They're out there, we promise.
12. Get professional help! No shame in that game.
There are plenty of online resources, paid and free, to help boost your mental health into a positive place! If you can't afford (or don't want to put money into) therapy, you can find some books, workbooks, eBooks, podcasts, YouTube videos, and a plethora of articles on CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy), dealing with grief, etc. Of course, it's nice to get personalized help, as well. If that's something you're looking for, there are most likely local therapists in your area that take your particular health insurance. Do a little research. It's worth it! If you can't find anyone that you jive with (and it's important to get along with your therapist - it makes all the difference), you can use an online therapist service like BetterHelp (not sponsored!). Whatever you choose to do, start your journey to helping better your mental health. Think of it just like taking care of your body. After all, your mind is part of your body.
13. Decorate differently, or recognize that reminders of holidays past aren't a bad thing.
With this one, do whatever you feel is right! There's no right answer. If the silver tinsel makes you too sad, donate it. Decorate your neighbor's porch with it, instead. Go on Pinterest and look up new ideas for decorating, and try it out! Sometimes, a little "new" can go a long way. We're big fans of matching gift wrapping with the rest of your decor!
14. Go easy on yourself.
We give other people a break. Give yourself a break. You deserve it. You're not "less than" if you need to take time to better yourself. In fact, it's admirable.
15. Send some snail mail.
This goes along with celebrating those who are still around, but we thought it deserved it's own space on this tip list! Support the USPS (or the postal service wherever you are). Jot down some meaningful words in some cute holiday cards. It's more fun and therapeutic than you might think!
❤🌿 - Beth @ Currant