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Holiday Help

You're the expert on your own grief

It's hard to believe this, especially in the early foggy days after a death. It's a strange time that requires you make a lot of big decisions when it's almost too much to decide which socks to wear. But once those most intense days have morphed into something a little different, you often may have a sense of what might be best for you.

Maybe there are people you don't want to see socially. Don't see them.

Maybe there are places you want to avoid. If you can, avoid them.

Maybe there are things you're not ready to do. If you can, don't do them.

It seems like common sense, right? But especially in the first year, there is a lot of "this is how you move on from death" advice from people who don't know what they are talking about.

There isn't a timeline for passing along your loved one's clothes or coming up with different holidays traditions or even feeling better. Demanding that grief and grief recovery just adds emotional insult to injury.

Set some boundaries

If you've got many people in your life who depend on you for emotional sustenance or more, explain that you might not be able to do what you usually do on holidays.

One way to illustrate this is "My emotional bank account is so low that I am mostly taking deposits right now, otherwise I'll be overdrawn." (thanks to my friend Stacy Bias for this concept)

Make flexible plans

It's hard to know whether you'll want to be around other people the first big set of holidays after a loved one dies. It might be that you'd like some distraction, but don't want to have much conversation depend on you. In that case, have friends over but ask another friend to take responsibility for the actual hospitality. If you get overwhelmed, just retire to your bedroom and watch cute animal videos.

When you're ready, create new traditions

When one member of a family or close friend group dies, it is normal for the whole community to disengage and then re-engage in a slightly different configuration. When you're ready it can be helpful to engage in new traditions, especially around the holidays. For example, if you usually had Christmas at home, could you go away to a resort that offers lots of activities? Could you go for the winter holidays to a tropical beach destination? Could you celebrate by visiting friends out of state?

Ways of making new traditions and remembering that special person...

1. Plant a tree
2. Light a candle
3. Tell stories that include that special person
4. Give a gift to charity that the person would have liked
5. Move the celebration to a different location

Do’s and Don’ts

Do be gentle with yourself and protect yourself.

Don’t do more than you want, and don’t do anything that does not serve your soul and your loss.

Do allow time for the feelings.

Don’t keep feelings bottled up. If you have 500 tears to cry don’t stop at 250.

Do allow others to help. We all need help at certain times in our lives.

Don’t ask if you can help or should help a friend in grief. Just help. Find ways; invite them to group events or just out for coffee.

Do, in grief, pay extra attention to the children. Children are too often the forgotten grievers.

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