4 Tips When You Just Want to Sleep Till January

Wish you could take a long winter's nap right into January?  
I've been there too. 

After loss and bereavement, the closer the holidays come the more knotted up we can get on the inside.  Just to face the holidays takes a courage no one sees.  Our holiday has fallen apart.  No, it has been blown to pieces and so has our life.  For me, it changed the year a criminal driver killed my 25 year old son Ben. 

The holidays bring extra pressure to be “merry”.    But the grieving person finds themselves in a different season, a season of mourning regardless of what the calendar and the TV commercials say.   

Here are 4 tips to help you get through the season.

1.     Plan/ prioritize
Because grief is fatiguing, don’t try to do too much.  Pick out the two or three important activities that you want to be part of and focus your energy there.  Don’t get bogged down worrying about the rest.  Delegate as much as possible to others.  

2.     Pace yourself
Grief is a marathon not a sprint so ensure you are pacing yourself and doing good self-care. Extensive Christmas preparation decorating may be overly exhausting.  
Personally, I scraped Christmas baking, I did store-bought - except for the shortbread cookies that my son loved.  I skipped Christmas cards since I was ambushed by grief trying sign the cards - without my son’s name.   I finally decided to write my name then, “and Ben, from heaven”.  Some people put an angel sticker and write their loved one's name on it.  That year I sent an e-mail greeting without any family picture, since mine now includes my son’s gravestone.  

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I did not decorate, no lights, no tree except the beautiful huge white poinsettia that my daughter gave me.  Gift shopping was one stop at the Walmart gift card display, since I could not handle the bustling mall.  Others hosted activities, I just did not have the heart or the energy.


If there is a family gathering, it helps to mention how you would like to honour your loved one. Others mean well but often just don’t know what to do. Many people light a candle and say some words of thanks about their loved one at the gathering.  It is a time of tears but gratitude and laughter too.  

Many people like this candle lighting, saying "Tonight we light 4 candles to remember ______:

 1.  This candle represents our grief. The pain of losing you is intense. It reminds us of the depth of our love for you.

2.  This candle represents our courage – to confront our sorrow, to comfort each other, to change our lives.

3.  This candle is in your memory – the times we laughed, the times we cried, the times we were angry with each other, the silly things you did, the caring and joy you gave us.

4.  This candle is the light of love. As we enter this holiday season, day by day we cherish the special place in our hearts that will always be reserved for you. We thank you for the gift your living brought to each of us. 

3.     People vs Privacy
In socializing, we usually find support but honor your need for privacy too.  It takes energy to face something as emotional and sentimental as the holidays. One new widow found she had to leave a Christmas party to sit in the car and cry.   If you prepare your hostess by explaining that grief can be unpredictable,  you will be more comfortable accepting an invitation if you have the liberty to leave early or not attend at the last minute.  

4.     Perspective
Asking yourself what the holiday means to you will help you determine where to focus your limited energies.  That way you can ensure you do what is truly important to you.

Some grievers want to keep the traditions the same to honour their loved one’s traditions and memory.  Some want to make it entirely different, like taking a beach vacation,  to honour their loved one’s absence and memory.  

Either way,  love remains forever.

Big hugs and wishing you quiet and rest in the hard season,


If you are facing loss, get the support you deserve.  For additional resources, including a no-obligation introduction coaching session with Helga Bender, MThS, for help, relief and rebuilding life again  click here.   

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