Home for the holidays. The sentence invokes images of Norman Rockwell prints or Currier and Ives plates. These idyllic portraits are great but holiday time isn’t perfect for everyone. The holidays can be stressful even in the strongest families, especially when dealing with a recent death. With this in mind, here are some practical guidelines for loss/death related holiday stress:
- If this is the 1st set of holidays after a death: You may notice the new absence when your loved one’s “specialty” occurs: (ex: making the stuffing, carving the turkey, putting up the tree, serving home-made pies or just sitting in a recliner watching TV all day). You might cry, or not. The holiday may feel the same as last year. It’s also possible you’ll feel nothing, like Novocain without the tingling. Don’t expect a schedule for experiencing new emotions. Give yourself a break, you’re human. Don’t apologize, no one expects an apology.
- If you’re beyond the first full year cycle, you are not immune to sadness induced stress. Pain related to death does not have a schedule and does not fight fair. There is no announcement of an impending crying jag; no time to protect yourself. This manifestation of grief will hide around the corner and kick you in the face when you least expect it. Don’t fear this pain, embrace it. It comes with the territory.
- Note: If the pain is so great you can’t leave bed for days, you may require professional help. Do not try and solve this problem alone.
- Finally, rely on friends and family. That’s why they are there.