1. Realize that the anticipation of pain is always worse than the actual eventual pain. Our thoughts affect our feelings and visa versa. Controlling your thoughts and learning to be mindful and stay in the moment are important skills.
2. Be kind to yourself. Don’t expect yourself to function to your full capacity at this time – processing feelings can be exhausting. For example: break tasks into smaller chunks; give yourself permission to not have to stay for the entire party; buy something to take to a potluck instead of making it yourself. Be realistic about what is possible rather than what you would like to be able to accomplish or do.
3. Accept your feelings. Don’t judge them. Sadness and tears are normal, and you don’t have to take care of others by pretending that you are not sad. At the same time, it is okay to let yourself be happy, to enjoy happy memories and to make new ones. Feelings of sadness AND happiness are all valid. You are not betraying your loved one if you let yourself be in the moment and not in the past with them. Be in the moment and let it be what it is.
4. Plan for the holidays with those that are closest to you. Decide which traditions are important to keep under these circumstances and which you want to change or let go. Make yourself the priority and decide what you think you are capable of to make the season meaningful and bearable.
5. Don’t be afraid of change. Altering old traditions slightly can take the pressure off the absence of your loved one. In one family that had suffered divorce, the Mom put a note in the bottom of the stockings….”You don’t have to pretend that it is the same this year….let’s have a picnic dinner on the family room floor”. This meant that they wouldn’t have to spend Christmas dinner without Dad at the head of the table. The same can be done for other routines: which foods get cooked; when the gifts are opened or which family member hosts the celebrations.
6. Make a list of all the tasks, and break them down. Ask friends for help. You will have some good days and some hard days. Planning in advance helps you to feel in control. It gives you choices about when you want to try things, and how much you want to try to handle.
7. Do something for someone else. While this won’t take away your pain it just feels better when you are putting positive energy out into the world and making things better for someone else…..and then somehow that energy tends to loop back and nurture you as well.
So to all of you …… I wish for you a Happy Holiday Season and for you to have Peace in your hearts throughout the New Year. Wherever you go during this next month or so….be kind….people are in more pain than you know.