Family gatherings can be tough for some people, even without the loss of a loved one. While you may already have the dish planned for Thanksgiving and the date and time in your calendar, if you’re grieving, the holiday season may be especially rough. To help, here's 8 tips for how to handle the holiday get-togethers while you're still grieving.
1. Get Away From the Crowd for a Moment
Whether it’s taking a break outside in the chilly weather, finding a quiet spot in the house or even locking yourself in the bathroom for a few minutes, know that it’s okay for you to step away and gather your emotions. Take time to focus on your breathing. Close your eyes, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Keep in mind that you may not want to step away for too long or people may ask where you were.
2. Hang Out with the Kids
Who doesn’t love playing with the kids! Well not everyone does, but sometimes sitting and playing with children can be a refreshing change. Children have a tendency to look at life with such simplicity and it may just be the medicine you need. You could even suggest doing some sort of physical activity with the kids to burn off some of the stress of the day. Exercise always relieves tension and makes you feel better.
3. Keep a Friend in the Know
Whether it’s a friend or family member at the holiday gathering or one somewhere else, it can be helpful to let someone know ahead of time that you may have a hard day and that you may need a shoulder to lean on. Whether it’s sending that person a text or asking them to step outside for a minute, it can be important to have a friendly outlet to turn to.
4. Stretch and Release Tension
This tip can be done before, during and after the holiday gathering to help release tension. There are many types of simple and inconspicuous stretches that can be done. Start with sitting up straight in your chair with both feet on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Place both hands behind your head at the base of your neck and interlock your fingers. Tilt your head toward the floor and press your shoulder blades together. Hold for 10 seconds, release and repeat 3 times. Another tension reducing practice is to tense and relax your muscles one at a time from head to toe. This helps you to let go of any tension that you may not be aware of.
5. Do a Grief Activity Together
If your entire family is grieving the loss of someone, you could consider doing a grief activity together as part of your holiday celebration. It could be anything from watching your loved one’s favorite holiday movie, having a toast in memory of them or doing some sort of grief craft. Being able to express your grief together can be a healing process. For a few ideas on grief crafts, make sure to check out our blog next week.
6. Be Grateful
Take time to remember the things that you are thankful for during this season, even though you feel the pain of loss. There is always something to be grateful for even in the darkest of times. Make a mental list of the good things in your life, the good things at the holiday gathering and consider inviting others to join in making the list. Being able to think and talk about what you’re grateful for will help re-set your mind.
7. Focus on What You Can Control
You may not be able to control your great uncle’s never ending stories, your sister’s bratty kids or your inner turmoil, but remember the things that you do have control over. You have control over your thoughts and mind and what you focus on. You have control over where you go throughout the house and who you interact with. You even have control of how long you decide to stay at the gathering. Focus on the things you can control and let go of what you can’t.
You’ve heard that laughter is medicine for the soul and that still holds true around the holidays. Laughing will increase your blood flow and can get you thinking about better things. Research has shown that even fake laughter is healthy for the human body, so even if it’s not real, laugh! Who knows, maybe your fake haha’s will turn into genuine laughter.
We hope that you are able to use some of these tips as a way to make this holiday season as enjoyable as it can be. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! What other tips and tricks have helped you during the holiday? Comment below to help others like you who are grieving during this holiday season.