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For many this is the year they wish November and December would simply not happen. As much as some of us might wish--we unfortunately aren't able to hibernate through it. Hopefully the suggestions below can aid you navigating through this holiday season.

  1. Be intentional. Think about what you need and want to happen during the next couple of months. Talk to others in your family about their needs and communicate your own.

  2. Let go of some things. Take a close look at the “rituals” of your holiday seasons. Which have meaning for you this year, and which can you skip? Often people are advised to do something totally different during the holiday season immediately following the loss of a family member. For some this is just the right recipe: for others traditions have healing power. You and your family may even need a blend of old and new. Discuss the options, and trust your instincts.

    >> Download our Holiday Help List to help get your turtle doves in a row

  3. Be patient with yourself, and recognize you will experience a roller-coaster of feelings during this time. Have a ready list of tools for helping balance highs and lows. This year your stress level will be greatly intensified. Eliminate anything stressful that isn’t a necessary component of the day.

  4. Practice self care. Try to eat healthily, get the rest you need, and engage in some reular physical exercise. As an already stressful time of year is compound ed by grief, it is extremely important to give yourself the healthiest choices possible. Give yourself extra time to recuperate from events, as social gatherings will be especially draining. Facing the holidays rested and ready will make it much easier.

  5. Remember your loved one. For some it is very important to incorporate some kind of special remembrance ritual honoring the memory of their loved one. For others it may not be helpful or comforting, but painful. Decide what you need and enlist others to help you plan accordingly.

    >> Check out "25 Ways to Remember Your Loved One" for ideas

  6. Reach out and beyond yourself. Offering time and talent in service to others--even in very small bites of time--is often an effective way to lift spirits during a difficult time.

  7. Let love in. Remember that grief is an isolating experience; it is important to plan for time with other people. If big gatherings are too difficult, be intentional about planning several smaller, informal gatherings.

  8. Lean on a friend. If something emotionally daunting MUST be done (eg. mailing out greeting cards, trimming the tree, etc.), try to enlist a friend to help you or even do it for you (this is a great time to cash in on those "Let me know if there's anything I can do"s).

  9. Make a list and check it more than twice. Make a list of things/activities/people who nurture you. Keep it nearby. Refer to it often. Here are some possible list items: candles, music, a walk in nature, massage, lunch with a friend, meditation, baking something for a neighbor, jigsaw puzzles, etc.

  10. Let yourself be happy. Don't guilt trip yourself for participating in the seasonal merriment. We can often make ourselves feel bad for simply being happy. The pain of a loss will never truly be gone, but that does not mean you must deprive yourself of love, joy and happiness. That being said.. if you feel like having a good cry, that's okay too.

  11. You will survive this difficult time – perhaps it will even turn out better than you imagine. In any case, remember you are not alone and it will not always be so painful. Resolve to share your grief with someone during this time. Allow yourself to experience the gift of someone being fully present to you and your story.

  12. [The Austin Center for Grief & Loss] holds an Evening of Remembrance in early December and offers a seasonal support group to aid individuals during the holiday season.

Copyright 2012 The Austin Center for Grief & Loss
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