10 Ways To Cope With A Loss Over The Holidays

I lost my dad almost 3 years ago to liver cancer and it’s still hard everyday. I’ve had to learn a few tricks over the years to not spend Christmas in the bathroom crying.

My dad loved Christmas, we both liked looking at the Christmas tree lights. It was calming in a way. I never imaged he’d be taken away so soon and so fast. Within 3 months of the discovery of his cancer he passed away. It’s so hard to talk about.

I’ve got a few things I do to help me cope with the loss of him and other loved ones during the holidays though. It doesn’t make the pain go away but it does help to remember a time when they were here.

10 ways to cope with a loss over the holidays

What is grief?

“Grief is the response to loss, particularly to the loss of someone or something that has died, to which a bond or affection was formed. Although conventionally focused on the emotional response to loss, it also has physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, spiritual and philosophical”. 

Why is it important to deal with the loss of a loved one?

There is no wrong or right way to deal with grief, some grieve differently than others. Grief is a natural emotion so it’s important to let yourself feel it, often times the pain of a loss can be overwhelming. Remember the grieving process will take some time. 

How to cope with loss over the holiday season:

  1. Acknowledge the holidays will be different without the person around.
  2. Create a new tradition in memory of your loved one.
  3. Decide if you’re going to have the holiday in the same place. The place you’ve been celebrating may be too much for you to handle while still coping with the loss.
  4. Keep in mind not everyone grieves in the same way, so just because someone isn’t in the same boat as you doesn’t mean they’re not hurting too.
  5. Include a favorite dish your loved one liked, this will keep the memory light.
  6. Buy a gift you would’ve bought a loved one and donate it to a charity of your choice or of one in which your loved one passed away. I do this with the liver cancer foundation.
  7. Be honest with family and tell then exactly what you do and don’t want to do for the holiday, if it’s just too much I’m sure they will not fault you for your absents.
  8. Send a holiday card to the loved one who passed away if not one of your parents. I do this with my best friend who lost her dad too.
  9. Pull out some old photos with family and friends and listen to the stories that pour out of their memories.
  10. Find a grief group if you need a little extra help and you feel you can’t talk to family or friends. There is no shame in seeking outside help.

I hope these tips will help you get through the holidays while grieving the loss of a loved one. Remember to just take it one day at a time no matter how long it has been.

How do you spend time with your family during the holidays?

Self Care during the holidays: 2020 edition

Congratulations! You made it through Thanksgiving. Your turkey was beautifully cooked and the sweet potato casserole was a hit with the kids.  Now it’s  time to sit back, relax and… oh wait. The holiday season is just getting started. 

If you are anything like me, the stretch between the holidays usually feels like a whirl of last minute preparations. As an elementary school teacher, I find these 3 weeks to be some of the hardest to navigate. The “Santa is coming” vibe hits my students the moment they leave for Thanksgiving break. For adults, this block of time can be more stressful than it is exciting. Is my shopping done? What do our travel plans look like? Do I really want to get into another debate about current events with my cousin over dinner if they come?

With all that in mind, let’s talk about some ways you can practice self-care this year during the holidays. 

1) Pace Yourself 

Unfortunately, our normal to-do list does evaporate during November and December. Looking at everything you want to get accomplished by a certain date in one shot can be overwhelming.  Grab your calendar and divide your to-do list up to no more than 3 or 4 holiday-related tasks per day. Managing your tasks this way will also help you prioritize the things that will need to get done sooner than others (e.g., taking family photos for the yearly Christmas card or sending gifts through the mail). 

2) Don’t completely neglect your routine

In the hustle and bustle of the holidays, our routines can quickly be swept to the side. Try your best to keep to your routine as much as you can. Keep up with your yoga when possible or take your afternoon strolls through the local park. This sense of normalcy will help to keep you in the right state of mind, which brings us to our next tip. 

3) Make your mental and physical health a priority

This is imperative during these trying times of the  COVID-19 pandemic.  It’s ok to not see your family in person this year for the holidays to exercise an abundance of caution. Both my husband and I are at high risk of complications if we were to contract the virus and thankfully our circle of loved ones understands this. Virtual family meet ups are still a great way to connect with your loved ones this year while keeping yourself safe and well. 

Many of us have had the unfortunate experience of  lengthy – and possibly heated- conversations with relatives whose views do not align with our own. 2020 will likely be no different it comes to uncomfortable dinner table talk.  If you know your Uncle Jim just won’t be able to contain himself, you are not obligated to engage with them. It is alright to give yourself the space that you need to be mentally secure. Prioritizing your health is not a luxury; it is a part of being a thriving human being. 

Here is one if the most important tips I can give:

4) Don’t forget to have fun!

 Even though this year will most likely not be a typical Christmas, there is still plenty you can do to get into the holiday spirit. If you are fortunate enough to live somewhere where it snows, please make a snowman in honor of all those who cannot (a small request from an incredibly envious Floridian). Put on a cheesy Hallmark movie while you are wrapping presents to send through the mail or doing your online shopping. Make plans to drive through a neighborhood you know goes all out with Christmas lights and wave to the residents. Plan a virtual Christmas movie night with the friends and family you won’t  be able to physically see this year. 

Stay safe this year and God bless!

Clari Maldonado runs the blog The Married Spoonie. Her blog is a place to share about her life living with chronic illness not only as a patient but as a caregiver to her husband, Anthony. Follow their journey on Instagram and their website.