A newsletter on mental health and wellness


First Published 1996

Inside Living Well             

Updated December ‘07


Here are other suggestions to help Re-Discover Joy in the Holidays when grieving:


1.  Remember, traditions are made for people, not people for traditions.  Consider changing a tradition or not doing it at all if is now uncomfortable or no longer fits.  If you want to keep some of the tradition, throw out, “because we’ve always done it that way" in lieu of finding a way to incorporate the memories and the feelings of the loss into the tradition.   Include family or significant others in the decision-making process to help modify the tradition and yet still provide it, say for the children. Can Christmas be at a restaurant this year, or over at another’s house?


2.  If you don’t feel like celebrating, don’t.  But don’t try and ignore the holidays either.  Create your own way of experiencing the day if you don’t wish to celebrate.


3.  Get plenty of rest.  Don’t push yourself.  Grief itself is a stressor and many report difficulty sleeping.  Nurture yourself during this time, knowing this will be hard.


4.  Recognize that worship services may be difficult.  With death, it may be difficult to go to the place of worship especially if that is where the funeral / memorial service was held.  If it is important to try and attend, give yourself permission to leave if it starts to feel too much.  For some, just getting in the doors may be enough.  For others, maybe calling a pastor or clergy member may be helpful.  Anger and questioning in spiritual or religious beliefs is common.  Seek out guidance if you are inclined or allow yourself time.


5.  Be careful not to spend your grief away or eat your grief away.  At a time when the focus is on buying gifts and on family and social holiday gatherings, be careful to not seep your  grief into trying to buy your way out of it.  As equally problematic is trying to find comfort through food.  Distinguish these from nurturing yourself and do indeed, find ways to pamper and nurture yourself with out over-indulging.  


6.  Volunteering time with the homeless or other causes can help fill the time void and find a way to reach out to others without the traditional commitments.  If you like, donate your time in honor of your deceased loved one or in response to your loss.  


7.  If you are grieving a death, take time to visit to the cemetery or find other ways to memorialize the lost loved one.  Plan activities to address the memory of your loved one.  Use the name of this person.  Talk about the person.  While you may fear doing so may bring up pain, and may in fact do so, often sharing stories, using the person's name, acknowledging the absence, will free you up to be present with each other and with yourself.  You are including the person through memory, not trying to ignore the person's absence.  This enables a much more real opportunity for healing and growth for all.


8.  Be around those that understand your grief and allow you to experience it.  Avoid those who use platitudes and inconsiderate remarks to deal with their own discomfort.  Excuse yourself from gatherings that you really rather not go to.


9.  Develop some plan for the holidays.  Don’t let them just “sneak up” in order to avoid the day.  Be intentional.


10.  If you feel like having fun and find yourself laughing, don’t berate yourself.  Have fun.  Laugh if that be the case.  You are not “forgetting” or ignoring, you are, in fact, living.  


11. Allow yourself to feel.  If you need to, allow yourself to cry, daily if that is what you have to.  Allow yourself to remember and miss.  Time limit these and when the egg-timer or alarm goes off, wash your face, take three deep breaths and go on with other activities, knowing that tomorrow you will have time again to grieve.  This is intentional grieving.  This is learning that you can have power over your feelings and not feel so overwhelmed.  And this is allowing yourself to grieve your loss and work towards healing.


When we spend our time acknowledging the pain, we give up the struggle of keeping the pain out.  When we allow ourselves to embrace the pain as well as the memories, we stop trying to hide.  When we start to let go of the rigidity of the way we have done things in the past and allow ourselves to develop new ways which incorporate the memories as well as the pain instead of ignoring them, then we are open to the experiences of the present.  


Wishing you a most honored Holiday Season!


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"The single relationship truly central and crucial in a life is the relationship to the self.  It is rewarding to find someone whom you like, but it is essential to like yourself.  It is quickening to recognize that someone is a good and decent human being, but it is indispensable to view yourself as acceptable.  It is a delight to discover people who are worthy of respect and admiration and love, but it is vital to believe yourself deserving of these things.  For you cannot live in someone else.  You cannot be given a life by someone else.  Of all the people you will know in a lifetime, you are the only one you will never leave or lose. To the question of your life, you are the only answer.  To the problem of your life, you are the only solution."                                      

                         ...................  Jo Coudert















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