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Grieving Over the Holiday Season – Advice to Help You Cope

Lights, laughter, sharing meals, opening presents, and, most importantly, spending time with loved ones. That’s the festive season. That’s why they say, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

But, if you’ve recently lost a loved one, your sense of grief can be intensified. Grief, even during the rest of the year, can be overwhelming. But when the festive season comes around, with its jollity and abundance of celebration, that grief, already overwhelming, can seem all too much.

It’s extremely difficult. You’re seeing everyone else have fun, but knowing that your someone is no longer there. The unconscious pressure you may feel to smile and laugh often gets too much, and, with all that forced merriment, you can feel even more isolated.

Grieving a special anniversary or a birthday at another time of year is still difficult, but it’s private. And that makes it easier to deal with. The holiday season, however, is different. Festive lights are up, people throng the malls, decorations are everywhere, TVs scream with cheery adverts, and carols fill your ears in shops and on the radio.

What’s more, celebrations at the end of the year seem to go on forever. There is no escape. All you want is some peace and quiet, and the chance to reflect on your loss. But, alas, there isn’t much time or many opportunities for that.

At AVBOB, we understand grief. We help people and families from across South Africa come to better terms with the loss of their loved ones. That’s why we want to make sure that, even at this time of festive cheer, in fact, especially now, you don’t feel alone, and we want to share our advice that we’ve gathered over the years to help you cope.

And if you let just a little of our advice help you, it can help you navigate the festive season better, and make the holidays feel just that little easier.

Share Memories with your Loved Ones

Shared memories. They are what bonded you to your departed. Surviving friends and family have their own shared memories with the departed. So, don’t bottle these memories up. Remember, the absence of your loved one will be more glaring if no one speaks about them. So, share happy memories and funny stories about your loved one during festive gatherings of friends and family. They’d want that.

Try Not to Make the Holiday Season the Same as Before

Honouring the passing of your loved one can make you feel obligated to continue traditions they upheld. Like making a certain meal on the day. Or dressing up as Santa. Or leading everyone in carols. Try not to make the holiday exactly the same as it always was and insist on repeating the same rituals you shared with your loved one. It can be painful, and it can reopen wounds. And whilst it is important to acknowledge the life of your loved one, balance it with your own. Perhaps, put some traditions on hold, start some new ones, or even make a blend of the two.

It’s Okay to Skip Some Seasonal Obligations

Social gatherings. Charity drives. Cooking for the extended family. Volunteering. These can be stressful obligations. When your loved one was with you, it was a burden you happily shared. But now that they’re gone, these may be burdens too heavy for one.

Avoid Using Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

Alcohol and the holiday season go hand in hand for many. There’s eggnog on the day, beers over braais, a bottle of wine with every meal, and shooters on New Year’s Eve. And yes, alcohol seems to promise you a world free from grief, and the ability to join the merriment. But remember, it’s a fine line and one that’s extremely easy to cross, between drinking in moderation and descending into maudlin grief.

Remember That Others Are Grieving Too

They were your loved one, and nobody denies that. Quite the opposite. But also remember that the departed left other friends and family, and you helping them to cope, can help you to cope too.

Death is a sad fact of life. It cannot be avoided. The ones that are left behind are the ones that hurt the most. The holiday season too is a fact of life - and, whilst it really isn’t, it feels as though it also can’t be avoided.

So be patient with yourself, don’t keep your needs hidden, take each day as it comes, stay true to yourself, and remember, your loved one would want you to be happy.

Try to participate in as much or as little as you feel like, without feeling guilty, or that you’re betraying your loved one who’s no longer there.

Remember, if things do feel too much, and you feel like you can’t cope, please reach out to a counsellor or another professional who can guide you through the journey of loss.

Your loved one, after all, would want to ensure your happiness always.

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