Celebrating The Holidays After A Loss
Losing a loved one comes with many grieving moments. You not only have to deal with their passing, but figure out a way to move forward without them. How do you celebrate their birthday when they’re gone? How do you commemorate any holiday without them? The answer to that isn’t simple and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it does get easier as time goes by. At MesaView Senior Assisted Living in San Diego, we’ve walked alongside many families through the brutal process of losing loved ones to Alzheimer’s disease.
There are many ways to cope with the grief of losing a loved one: taking deep breaths, reminiscing on good memories or seeing a therapist are all great coping mechanisms. However, the holiday season can make it more difficult as sentimental memories surface. The holidays are described and advertised as a magical time with family. TV programs play Christmas shows and movies about families getting together. Family photos are taken at every mall around the globe. Even businesses put up ads showing families opening presents, having dinner and visiting one another for this brief moment of the year. When this is your first time experiencing loss, it can be hard to leave your house, or let alone be in your house. The question shifts from “how to deal with the loss of a loved one” to “how to live without your loved one.”
The first step to celebrating any holiday is to think about how you can still incorporate them into your traditions. For example, if your dad always made the turkey at thanksgiving, consider someone else taking over that duty, but prepare/cook it the same way your dad did. The same can be applied to your mom decorating the family tree, and whose house you go to when celebrating. It will be hard to adopt to your loved ones traditions, but it will keep their spirit alive.
Now, all that is easier said than done. You can reassign traditions, but realize that’s it’s a lot harder than you thought. If that’s the case, it may be time to start new holiday traditions. If everyone went to mom and dad’s house for the holidays, try meeting up at a restaurant or you and your siblings can take turns hosting each holiday. You can make new recipes, start new crafts and read new stories. There are endless ways to reimagine the holidays should you chose to mix it up.
You may also consider displaying photos from previous years that include your loved one as a way to still keep them around. Photos are a great way to convey memories and displaying them gives them a place to be enjoyed. You can hang them, put them in frames or scrap book them so other family members can look through them and enjoy the same memories together.
When someone you love has passed on and you feel yourself getting overwhelmed during the holidays it could also be a good idea to disconnect yourself from the holiday until you get more comfortable around it. Taking a break from Christmas isn’t a bad thing if it’s doing a good thing for you. Wait until Christmas brings back positive emotions for you again to celebrate because holidays should be filled with joy and make you remember good times, not create bad ones.
In the end, it’s your decision how you celebrate. It can be emotional to lose someone you love, but you can still keep their spirit alive inside of you during the holidays in many different ways.
Thanksgiving looks very different for most of us this year and adding the loss of a loved one (whether to COVID or Alzheimer’s disease) makes the holiday season that much more painful. From all of us at MesaView Senior Assisted Living in La Mesa, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and send our sincere condolences if you’re grieving this holiday season.