Vincentian John J. Donohue from the St. Mary Magdalen bereavement group shared this with fellow members in the hopes it might help others this Christmas season.
How Can a Person Who Recently Lost a Loved One Cope With Christmas?
Many people are very happy during the Christmas season. They are filled with joy. However, there are many others who are filled with sadness because of the death of a loved one.
I can remember when my wife of 28 years died of cancer and I had three children to raise. Christmas was immensely sad for my children and myself. I did not know how to function. I did not know how to cook, do the laundry and many other things. I wished someone would have told me how to survive this most difficult time of my life. I resolved that if I ever got over all of these issues, I will do my very best to help those in a similar situation. The following are some of my thoughts.
Some Thoughts on Coping With the Christmas Season
The chances are you are not going to have a happy Christmas. As a result, you should lower your expectations. A reasonable goal would be to make your Christmas tolerable. Some of the things to consider are as follows:
- Rest. You are undergoing the equivalent of a heart attack. Like any person who endures a heart attack, you need peace and quiet. Rest is essential and therapeutic. Create a day of self-care or a self-health day.
- Watch what you eat and drink. There is a strong tendency to eat junk food or use excessive drugs or alcohol.
- Exercise. Exercise helps to relieve stress. Take walks. Walks help to relieve anxiety.
- Build yourself up emotionally. Do not be too hard yourself. Have confidence you can do certain things. If you do not know how to do something, ask for help. Friends are glad to have an opportunity to help you. Speak to your friends. Buy something nice for yourself. Have some time alone.
- Consider new traditions – plan ahead. Determine what you can do and what you cannot do. Do something different than you did last year.
- Discuss with your family who is doing what. Give yourself a break. This is the year you should not be overdoing anything. Let others do the work. Do not set a place at the table for the loved one. It will make the day more difficult. Consider a buffet style dinner instead of a sit down dinner. You could also consider having dinner at someone else’s house.
- Christmas cards. Do not be compelled to send Christmas cards. Send none or a few. No one expects to receive a card from you.
- Invitations. You may be invited to go to a party or any other social event. Do not be afraid to say no. People should understand. Only attend if you know you will feel comfortable. Generally, it is a bad idea to go to a wedding or an affair where there will be a lot of singing or dancing.
- Shopping. Keep your shopping to a minimum. Stay out of malls or crowds. This is the time to do any online-shopping.
- It is ok to cry. It helps to relieve anxiety. Just let the tears flow. It is therapeutic.
- OK to be happy. Your loved one would want you to be happy. It is not disrespectful to your loved one. It gives you a break from your sadness.
- Journal. Some people find it helpful to write out their thoughts. Do not use a computer. It is more therapeutic to write out your thoughts.
Let Christmas be the beginning of a new version of yourself. Spend time to think about Christmas more than you ever did before. Your loved one is enjoying Christ’s birthday in heaven. What a special gift! He or she will reach down from heaven and touch your heart in a way it was never touched before. You just have to ignore the commercialism and open your heart to love.
Christ came into this world as an infant and left the world a martyr. Ask yourself, do you really believe there is a God? If so, place your trust in Him. Speak to Him about your problems. Christ has said He will remove the yoke from your shoulders. I have seen a yoke and it is very heavy.
Allow Christ to be your companion on your journey. Know that you are special. Christ has given you special gifts. He does not bring anyone into the world “empty handed”. So reach out to others with love, compassion and understanding and you will have a wonderful Christ filled Christmas.
Merry Christmas to all and may Our Good Lord fill all of our hearts with love and joy and hold all of us in the Palms of His hands!
John J. Donohue
St. Mary Magdalen bereavement group
December 9, 2021