Ideas for Coping During the Holidays After Losing a Loved One

Russ Krengel Caregivers

This year, 2020, has been challenging for all families. Every year, as the holidays roll around, many people are faced with an empty seat at the table for Thanksgiving or a familiar smile in the family photos. Losing someone we love is never easy. And with the holiday season upon us, this is a good time to have a plan. 

The worst thing you can do, in terms of your own mental well being is to shove your feelings down or to ignore them. Instead, it is a good idea to plan for ways to acknowledge your loss, embrace fond memories, and find new ways to celebrate that bring meaning and purpose to your current way of living. 

The following is a list of suggestions for finding joy or at least, some peace, during the holidays this year.

Have a Plan

It is a strange year for gatherings, with a global pandemic. Whether you are going to be alone for the holidays or are with family in your home, you still need a plan. It can be a simple bullet list of ideas, walks to take, gifts to send, cookies to bake – it can even be reminding yourself to just be, and allowing yourself to feel calm in the quiet. Policing your plan is the hard part. Others may have their own ideas about how you “should” spend these holidays without your loved one. But this is your list, your plan, your way to heal.

Be the Name Dropper

So often, when a family member is lost, others will try not to bring them up in conversation, especially around the holidays. Out of love and care for you, they try to avoid that subject altogether. But you can feel it. And it doesn’t really help anyone. So, maybe just mention them by name person, bring it up yourself. Share a treasured memory, send a special photo or give a prized possession to someone they loved. What a great excuse to celebrate that connection you all felt and to relieve tension for everyone. 

Make a Playlist, or Two

This is more fun than it sounds and also makes a great gift. Music is the idea, it keeps our hearts and souls together. Make a list of songs that fit the mood you’re going for over the holidays and listen to it. Uou can use a free tool like Spotify on your computer or cell phone. Anazing Prime also has music, or iTunes. Doesn’t have to be high tech. Make lists with songs that remind you of your lived one and make some that are just for you. Holiday tunes, hits from your teens, songs that make you happy and get your feet tapping. While you’re at it, maybe choose your theme sing gir getting through the holidays. Music really can change your whole day. 

Get Outdoors, Even Just a Little

The weather outside might be frightful but sunlight is healing and nature is a calming, beautiful healing agent. Take a walk, take some leaves or shovel snow, sit in the sunshine. Make a bucket list of nearby trails you want to hike, lakes you want to fish or views you want to see – and go see them. You can social distance outdoors and you don’t have to drive far to get outside of that comfort zone. Even just walking onto the porch and sitting with a cup of coffee. Watching the sunrise or set is a highly recommended activity. Reminds us to appreciate real beauty.

Bring Back the Practice of Writing Actual Letters

Order some nice stationery or just grab paper from your printer and hand write a letter, with a pen, to someone you love. Tell them why you love them. Share favorite memories. Ask questions and give them a reason to write back. Then address the envelope, put on a stamp and mail it. You can get stamps online, instantly, so not having any stamps is no longer a good excuse.

Watch Some Old Movies

If you’re going to do it, do it right. Gather supplies- a comfy blanket, slippers, hot tea or cocoa, popcorn or other favorite treats, maybe a fire in the fireplace. Turn up the volume, turn down the lights and have a heartwarming experience with beloved characters from another time. Transport yourself and enjoy the drama, laughter both. Choose some feel-good titles and make it a fun evening – or maybe a marathon with new titles each night for a week.

Decorate Your Surroundings

This year, it is important. Does not have to be elaborate and no need to spend a lot of money. But this is one way we tell ourselves that life will continue after we have lost someone we love. We keep going, we keep celebrating and we remember them always. Put up their favorite decorations or maybe choose one special way to honor them with a photo or wreath or candle. Life is beautiful, even with loss. This is one way to find and keep beauty when all else feels dark.

Help Others

It is cathartic. Make donations, volunteer, send gifts, call with support, bake a cake, etc. Many people are struggling. Helping them can also help put your own worries into perspective. Helping feels good. Helping helps.

No matter what you decide to do to celebrate this year, and to ring in the new year, remember that there is no “have to”. Especially this year. You do not “have to” go anywhere. You do not “have to” do anything. You get to spend this holiday season feeling and doing as you wish. Loss and change are universal, as is your option to seek out peace, calmness, and joy. We are all on this Earth together for just a little while and our gifts are not what we have or what we get. They are what we bring to the table for others. Your life today is a beautiful gift to be shared. Have a safe and healthy 2020 holiday season.