Dear Dr. Josh,
My son died three years ago right after thanksgiving. The first holiday season without her was horrible, the second was better, but things really haven't gotten better. I have come to dread the holidays. What can I do to get through this?
The holidays are supposed to be a joyful time of the year, but for people struggling with the death of a family member or other loved one, the holidays can be a difficult time. The holidays are such an emotional time that they can trigger strong feelings even if a loved one died several years ago.
Here are four actions that will help:
1. Plan for the holidays- remind yourself that the holidays may not be the same as they were in the past. Expecting everything to seem the same might lead to disappointment. Modify or make new traditions if it feels right.
2. Accept that this might be a difficult time for you. Be prepared for rushes of emotions that may occur. This is normal. A lot of folks fear that they are going to “break-down” at get togethers. One thing you can try is to schedule your break down—if you’re feeling pretty emotional- go ahead and have the cry before you go out—allow yourself a moment to grieve. When emotions are temporarily depleted, it makes it easier to take on the day.
3. Don't over commit yourself. Take time for yourself and take care of yourself. But , be careful not to isolate yourself. Try not to cut yourself off from the support of family and friends. Choose events that sound most appealing at the time and decline the ones that feel more like an obligation.
4. If your faith is important, spend time with people who understand and respect your desire to pray and talk about common beliefs.As hard as the holidays are and can be, with time- they will take on new meaning and be more manageable.