By Kathy Fanger
Parish Outreach Coordinator
Holidays can be extremely difficult for those who have experienced the death of a loved one. When everyone seems so happy, the bereaved may feel sad, lonely or depressed. “How will I, or we, ever get through these holidays? Here are some suggestions.
Think ahead. Do those activities you are able and desire to do. Give yourself permission to forego others.
Practice holiday traditions. One of the most difficult aspects of the holidays is to deal with its “traditions.” A death of a loved one may mean that a much-loved tradition may lose some of its joy. Yet rituals and traditions are important. Choose some, and consider starting new traditions.
Allow yourself to cry when you feel the need to cry. Crying helps both physically and emotionally. It can reduce stress, calm anxiety and bring peace.
Be kind to yourself. Give yourself time to rest, reflect and pray. Balance your time with family and friends and give yourself permission to feel good, to laugh and even to have fun. Pamper yourself with something that will bring you happiness. Your loved one would want that for you.
Find someone to talk to…who will listen without giving advice, and let you say the words that are bottled up inside of you. You may consider attending a grief support group or seek a professional counselor.
Remember your loved one. Light a candle near his or her picture, look at photos, or create a special album. Children may draw pictures and write messages. Play your loved ones’ favorite holiday music. Talk about the person and encourage others, versus not mentioning their name. Memories and stories may evoke tears and laughter, often very healing. Offer a toast at your holiday meal or share a blessing.
Write a letter to your loved one…say all that is in your heart. Keep it in a special place, burn it in a fireplace, or let it float away in a river, lake or ocean.
Seek support from your relatives, friends, and coworkers. They are sources of love and assistance. Ask for what you need and allow them to help you.
Reach out to others. Offer a monetary donation, food or gifts to a charity in your loved one’s memory. Volunteer. Working alongside others can bring joy and remind us, “It is in giving that we receive.” St. Francis
Be grateful for God’s many blessings. God loved you so much that God chose your loved one especially for you…to change your life forever. He or she showed you the face of Christ and is close to you even now, as you pray, converse and sense their presence, often when you least expect it.
Attend Mass and receive the sacraments. They give us strength and hope as we pray together, listen to the Word of God, sing lyrics that lift our spirits, and receive Jesus himself.
They shall call him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.’” Rather than saying, “Where is God in all my sadness?” recognize that God is right in the MIDDLE of it! Jesus, who became one of us, understands what we are going through. He is near to us, healing us, and reminds us that we will see our loved one again in the kingdom of heaven.