Are you dreading the upcoming holidays? Afraid of being alone or without your loved one? Or have you been thinking about the possibility of receiving a greeting card from someone who doesn’t know that their loved one has died?
Most experts agree that the anticipation of a holiday and the anticipation is almost always worse than experiencing the day. There are a lot of unrealistic expectations during the holidays.
In any case, here are 10 things you can do that have been used by others over the years to help you deal with your grievance and reduce unnecessary suffering.
1. Structure your day. Plan. Plan. Plan. Make a schedule of what you will do each hour of the day and commit to following it. Decide in advance what you can and cannot do that day. Make a “to do” list and a “to do” list. Talk about both with your family members. You do not have to follow what was done on previous vacations.
2. Have a backup plan. If things go wrong and you can’t stick to your schedule at a given time during the day, substitute an alternative activity. Let’s say you can’t stay for dinner as long as you originally planned. Then make sure you have someone and something else to do (another place to go) so you can get away from the highly stressful situation.
3. Simplify. You don’t have to do all the work of sending cards, shopping for gifts, and decorating if it doesn’t feel right for you. You probably don’t have the energy to get started. Cancel this part of the vacation. Either shorten your list or decide not to send cards. Send money or buy through the Internet. Instead of a Christmas tree, simply decorate it with pine branches or small ornaments.
4. Decide on a way to symbolize your loved one’s presence. It can be lighting a candle, placing your photo in a special place, making your favorite dessert, telling a favorite story or setting a place on the table. It’s okay to reminisce about past vacations with him or her. Celebrate her life and what has enriched yours through your relationship with your loved one.
5. Buy one gift for yourself (from your loved one) and one for your loved one. So decide to give the gift for your loved one to someone who would benefit from it. Make helping others one of your New Year’s resolutions to honor their memory. Focus on this thought during the Christmas season.
6. Allow yourself to express your feelings as they arise. don’t resist. Let the grievance flow through you naturally. It is okay to cry and feel sad. Crying is coping. If you’re feeling especially sad, call someone you trust to talk. Picking the right person and asking if you can call them “just in case” is part of your backup plan. Ask for help. Don’t expect your friends to automatically know what you need.
7. Take time for yourself and do something you enjoy, and don’t feel guilty about doing it. Do this every day of the season. Eat a special meal. Get a massage. Take a bubble bath. Visit a nearby park or a beautiful landscape. But remember, don’t isolate yourself. You need your own time, but don’t overdo it.
8. Make sure to exercise. This is a commonly overlooked but extremely profitable way to change feelings and emotions. Walk, ride a bike, or do your usual exercise pattern. We all need physical outlets for the emotional stressors of the day. Accept the fact that your loved one’s absence on a special day is sure to cause you pain. But you can use exercise as a counterweight.
9. Confront your feelings by periodically asking yourself where you are in your inner life right now. Are you overwhelmed, fearful, angry and alone or are you experiencing a moment of joy? Once you have identified your emotional state, continue to examine options for dealing with your mental state. Do you need to be with someone or go somewhere or say something to yourself? Your encouraging self-talk may be important here.
10. Combine these two survival skills when you start to feel like you’re spiraling downward: take action and refocus your attention. These two critical skills are essential to all of us for the rest of our lives. When making your vacation plan, list a number of activities you can do when you need to change the blues and avoid falling into a depressive state.
Decide on the immediate action you can take to combat excess distress: get up and do something, walk around the house, pray, repeat a mantra, Google the word grievance. Find a way to change your thought pattern. It will work for you, if you constantly try.
You can get through this holiday season, or any day you feel is a special day involving your loved one. Three things will guarantee your success: Commitment (“I’ll get over it”), Determination (“If I fall, I’ll get up”), and Persistence over time (Remember, it’s like an endurance race). There is no right or wrong way to approach the holidays. There is only your way.