The first year after my son died, I wanted to hide under the covers till January. To my surprise the second year was worse but then got much better. In that first year, I knew that I really needed the support of the dear people who cared. Grief is very draining and I had limited energy. I trimmed down my invitations and only went to the most important holiday festivities. However, because most people mean well but have inadequate or inappropriate information about support, I often needed to take the lead in communicating what support looked like, especially at holiday festivities.
Parties can be a challenge when grief is so unpredictable. We don’t know how we will feel that day or even the moment we get there and wonder if we should just say, “No”. But it is good to let others help us and include us. This may mean we explain to the hostess that we have up days and down days, and so the best we can do is give a tentative “yes”. When we arrive at the party, have some scripted answers ready for uncomfortable conversations or prying questions. That way, we can enjoy the support of others more if we have strategies to get us past awkward movements.
Here are the top 5 tips for tough holiday festivities - after loss:
1. Decide which parties or events are really important and trim it down to a very few. Save your energy yet still benefit from the support of friends and family. Give and get hugs, gratitude and even laughter which will rejuvenate your energy.
2. Take the lead in letting people know you appreciate them remembering and speaking about your loved one. Many times people fear that will upset you. If you feel comfortable, call the hostess ahead of time and ask if you could bring a special candle to light in honour of your loved one. Ask for a prayer/ toast/ reading to be given at a appropriate moment, like at dinnertime.
3. Spend your time with the people that are most supportive and comfortable. This might include focusing on the children who are a special part of Christmas.
4. Create an “escape plan” to leave a party if it becomes too hard to stay. Let your hostess know you might have to leave early and that you appreciate her support. You can always go home and watch a comedy.
5. When people sympathetically ask, “How are you, dear?”, be ready with some prepared answers, and use the one that feels right in that moment.
a. It is okay to say, “fine”, it helps defuse discussion about your loss. It does not mean you are dishonouring your loved one.
b. If you wish to avoid hearing other’s advice, “I have my good days and my bad days, it is a hard process but I am coming along.” Then switch the topic to “How is your family or How was your vacation? ” Prying questions can be deflected with, “I would rather not discuss it right now”.
c. If you want to invite others to talk about your loved one, you might reply with, “I am coming along but it is up and down, but it is always an up moment whenever I hear fond stories of my loved one. They are so heartwarming. ”
Remember: Give yourself credit. If you have been able to stay at an event for 30 min., congratulate yourself, you have done well. You are doing the best you can with what you have. Let others be supportive of you this year and in the years to come you will want to give it back. It is hard but just get through it. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Blessings, big hugs and keep moving forward,
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Check out other helpful blog articles including : Birthday Parties in Heaven, He is not here, Just tell Me What Happened and The Worst Nightmare plus helpful Renewing Resilience Tips.
If you are facing loss, get the support you deserve. For additional resources, including a no-obligation introduction coaching session to discuss your situation and renew resilience and tranquility, with Helga Bender MThS, click here.
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