The holidays are usually a time of celebration and tradition. A time for family and friends to get together in celebration. A time when the older and younger generation reunite and traditions and rituals are passed down. A time of fun and jubilation. However, when a loved one, who had been part of these celebrations passes away, it leaves a void for the rest of the family. A void that is sometimes too difficult to fill. This void is sometimes so painful that it manifests itself in perpetual grief and even depression.
I have personally experienced this grief, in the loss of my mother, and adopted six strategies that helped me rebound to a sense of normalcy.
1. Allow Yourself Time to Grieve
It is so important that you allow yourself time to grieve. If that does not take place, it is difficult to move on. There is acute grief that happens when you lose a loved one. The kind of grief that causes you to cry uncontrollably making it hard to catch your breath. The kind of grief that makes it difficult to even mention the name of your loved one without crying. For me, it would be a simple question during a doctor’s visit of whether both parents were living. This would send me into tears. It took me two years to be able to talk about my mother without tearing up. Experts put that time of acute grief at a year, but I would say individuals recover differently, so allow yourself time to remember and cry it out. It, however, becomes unhealthy when acute grief continues and is now complicated grief. When this happens, professional help is needed.
2. Remember the Good Times You Had Together
It’s important to laugh again. Remember the good times you had with your loved one with friends or family members and allow yourself time to smile and laugh at those good times. By doing this you allow your mind to associate good feelings with the memory of the loved one. For me, that good time was dancing with my mother. She would be the first on the dance floor and I enjoyed doing that with her. For you, it might be shopping, playing a particular game, baking etc. Whatever it is, remember it fondly.
3. Take on an Activity
An activity such as exercising releases endorphins and this makes you feel good. It can be anything physical. Take up dance aerobics, golf, swimming, skating, bowling or even ballroom dancing. You might even try an activity you have never done. You will find that physical exertion is cathartic. It will help you work through the grief on a natural chemical level. For me, it was doing my sister’s African Dance workout on a regular basis. The added benefit of exercising is helping you maintain or lose weight as oppose to turning to food as a source of comfort.
4. Do Something for Someone Else
What is that old adage? Someone always has it worse than you do. With that in mind, reach out to others who are hurting and fill a need for them. There is a certain satisfaction that arises from doing something for someone else. It allows you to take the focus off self and concentrate on the needs of others. If you’re not focused on yourself, you cannot continue to mope. It’s hard to wallow in self-pity when you’re concerned about someone else.
5. Don’t Be Alone – Be with Family or Friends
Nothing exacerbates grief more than being alone. You have too much time to think and continue to feel sad when you’re alone. Be sure to surround yourself with family and friends. Being around people who share your grief can be therapeutic. You can remember the person together. You can cry together, laugh together even grimace together. When it’s all said and done, you get support from each other. Be sure to be around family and friends when grieving.
6. Do Something in Their Honor
What better way to honor your loved one by doing something remember them? Donate to charity in their honor. Sponsor a child in need in their honor, adopt a family to purchase for the holidays, donate your time towards a good cause in their memory. Start a scholarship fund (if you have the means) in their honor. My mother loved giving to St. Jude’s so we all donated to St Jude’s in her memory. This keeps their legacy alive to others who otherwise wouldn’t know who they were.
Follow these six tips and be well on your way to living your best life after the loss of a loved one. Remember that your loved one would want you to be happy.