Jim Luder, a bereavement and hospice care counselor, says there’s no right or wrong way to celebrate the holidays after the death of a loved one.
“One of the things I’ve seen in my support groups is that it’s all across board,” Luder says. “Some people have decided, as they’ve talked to their loved ones, they’ve said, ‘We’re going to do everything like we normally do, we’re going to go to somebody’s house,’ or whatever, and others have completely scaled back and don’t do anything that they’ve done in the past.”
It’s important to set realistic expectations for yourself and for the holidays. Luder says it’s equally important to communicate what you can handle and how you would like to celebrate.
“People need to talk to their family to let them know, ‘This is where I am, this is what I feel, this is where I can go, this is where I can’t go,'” Luder says. “This tradition, I’m really willing to go through with, but this one reminds me too much of my loved one and I’m not going to do that.”
It may also be a comfort to let others help with the holiday responsibilities. Luder says it’s important to talk about your feelings and needs. He says take care of yourself — mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
“A lot of churches do what they call a Blue Christmas where on the 21st, they will celebrate because it’s the longest night of the year,” Luder says. “They will sit down and talk about the fact that while everyone else is having a merry Christmas, they’re blue because of the one they’ve lost, but they still find hope during that time.”
He says joining a support group may also be helpful. Free support groups are available through most hospice care offices and many places of worship.
Lastly, he says to remember your loved one throughout the holiday season by sharing memories, lighting a candle in that person’s honor or by making a tree ornament for your loved one.