Going through grief during the holidays brings many challenges—seen and unforeseen.
Grief, especially during the Christmas season, can feel like a minefield of the soul. Step left, and you’re okay…but step right, and an explosion of memories and heartache can blow right up in your hurting heart.
Today’s holiday grief tip is: Watch out for, plan for, and be mindful of triggers.
While going through deep grief, there usually isn’t much of a desire to do anything at all, but with a few preparations, many situations that can present further heartache can be pre-planned for, contained, or avoided.
Whether you have experienced the death of a treasured loved one, are going through illness, a divorce, or family conflict, or are going through another heartbreaking loss, grief during the holidays can certainly bite. Grief can bring many unwanted surprises and additional heartache that hasn’t been planned for. It also can be a challenge to balance grief, while also honoring and treasuring remaining loved ones. Hopefully, today’s tip can help prevent further grief so the holidays are more peaceful.
Some people who are deep in grief have the full ability to do all of the usual Christmas traditions and activities they’ve always enjoyed doing…this even brings great comfort to some. For others, doing the usual activities and traditions feel as though their heart is being pierced with an indescribable pain. During grief, triggers can suddenly pop up and hurt very badly – with both scenarios.
Sometimes, there’s a need for a griever to change things up so they can figure out how to enjoy the holidays once again. No choices need to be permanent or “set in stone”…change may be needed just for this year.
No matter which you are experiencing, if you’re needing to change things up or keep things exactly as they are, here’s a list of questions to help you navigate through the holidays (and triggers) as comfortably as possible:
- Traditions~ What triggers do you think have the potential to surprise you? Is it putting up your usual ornaments or doing your usual traditions that previously held great sentimental memories? Is it baking your treasured loved one’s favorite recipe or a baked good they loved? Will doing these things trigger feelings of fond remembrance…or will they trigger deeper heartache? Also, consider places that are tied to traditions. For example, if you recently lost a spouse, and you always went to get coffee or a meal together at a specific coffeehouse or restaurant, will you feel comfortable or uncomfortable seeing other couples at the same place? Or if you lost a child, please consider if it will be too hard to go to the mall and see children there with their parents? Sometimes, it is hard for grievers to see all of the joy-filled couples or families while out shopping or dining. Shopping online or getting take-out can truly be a griever’s best friend during the holidays. Consider all of the traditions that you treasure and then decide which you would like to do, and which ones to wait until next year to do.💕
- Events~ What events do you feel you could enjoy, and what events might prove to be too painful to attend this year? What events do you think can provide you with feelings of love, encouragement, and hope? What events do you feel may no longer interest you? Events should make you feel better, and definitely not worse. Look out for any events that you feel would simply be too hard to attend this year.
- Relationships~ Who has been helpful or encouraging to you in your grief? Are there loved ones in your life who don’t quite understand grief or what you’re going through? Is there anyone in your life who you can ask for extra support this holiday season? Grief, sadly, reveals the depth of majority of a griever’s relationships. Relationships can be a blessing, or they can definitely become challenging during times of grief. Communication can greatly help to prevent confusion and heartache. What if you’re already at a family gathering or a friend’s holiday party and you begin to feel uncomfortable? Sometimes, it can be a necessity to go to a different room at gatherings or events if you’ve tried to communicate with loved ones about your grief, yet they continue to compound your grief and cause further conflict. Ideally, do everything possible to keep and maintain peace, but sometimes, it may be best to distance yourself from additional hurt by preventing relational triggers…and instead, primarily and purposely be around those who will offer you kindness and support at family gatherings or friend events. Avoid conflict, especially with family, as much as possible. And always realize beforehand that emotions can be heightened during times of grief so preparation may be needed. Whatever choices are made, do everything in love.
- Usual enjoyments~ There are so many things to savor and enjoy during the holidays…all of the sights, sounds, fragrances, tastes, memories, and joys…but after grief shows up, be prepared that these things can now potentially trigger intense feelings of loss and heartache. What favorite holiday enjoyments could possibly be a trigger for you this year? For example: What Christmas songs can bring sadness this season? You might want to make a playlist that you create to avoid hearing songs that will intensify grief. Think about the things you’ve previously enjoyed and decide which you’ll want to savor and enjoy…or not. There’s nothing wrong with waiting until next year to try to enjoy familiar holiday enjoyments if they prove to be too hard, sad, or daunting this year.
- Church~ If you’re used to attending church holiday services, or if you’ve never attended, I wholeheartedly encourage you to do so…even if it’s online. Christmas services are an amazing experience every year! Be prepared, however, that they may be much more emotional this year. When going through grief, feelings can be very intense. If you’ve allowed God to guide you and encourage you through your grief, attending Christmas services will be a much more meaningful experience for you. After my sister’s fiancé died, she was surprised to find that heavy tears surfaced out of nowhere as the church band played. The music brought so many emotions to the surface of her heart. Be prepared for possibly more intense feelings during church services this time of year. If you know you’ll feel uncomfortable attending services, check to see if your church offers online services. Many churches do. Saddleback, Life.Church, and so many wonderful local churches all have fantastic online Christmas services. Sometimes, it is very helpful to go ahead and attend church in person so you can be around others and not feel so isolated or alone. There is no wrong or right answer, so do whatever brings you and your family the most peace.
❤️(Update: due to the pandemic, please take precautions to stay safe and well.)❤️
Being mindful of triggers definitely doesn’t mean to avoid Christmas activities or enjoying your loved ones this year. There are so many wonderful things about the Christmas season that can bring unimaginable joy to your heart! Just being prepared, as well as a little planning, can ensure a much more relaxed, comfortable, more enjoyable, and peace-filled holiday season.
Wishing everybody love, peace, encouragement, healing, and HOPE throughout this beautiful season and the new year!
Gratitude & many blessings,
©2015 by Kim Niles. All rights reserved.
©2020 Kim Niles/Grief Bites. All rights reserved.
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2. Grief Bites: Doubt Revealed: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/954-grief-bites-doubt-revealed
3. Grief Bites: A New Approach To Growing Through Grief https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/862-grief-bites
4. Grief Bites: Hope For The Holidays: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/1964-grief-bites-hope-for-the-holidays
5. Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: Christmas: http://bible.com/r/3V5
6. Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: Happy New Year!: http://bible.com/r/3Zv
7. Valentine’s Day: Experiencing Holidays With Jesus: https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/14059-valentines-day-experiencing-holidays-with-jesus
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