Around this time of year, newly grieving people (and some seasoned veterans) start looking for help, answers, any sort of guidance that they can find on how to handle the holidays now that one of their most precious people is gone.
The short and simple answer to this question is: however you want to.
There is so much societal (and sometimes familial) pressure to keep up long-standing traditions or to maintain a certain level of holiday cheer despite the fact that your world have been completely ransacked and you are sitting in a deep, dark pit of grief.
So, for those of you who are looking for answers, I want to give you permission to celebrate exactly how you see fit.
If that means completely ignoring the holiday season, do that.
If that means abandoning all former traditions and starting brand new ones, do that.
If that means throwing every ounce of energy and love that you can muster into having the absolute best holiday season ever, then by all means do that.
It’s okay if you just can’t go through the motions this year. It’s okay if you give everyone gift cards.
It’s okay if the extent of your decorating is assembling the tree with no lights and no ornaments.
It’s okay if you want to stay home and cry this year.
It’s okay if you want to celebrate with other grieving people instead of your family.
It’s okay if you are happy.
It’s okay if you are sad.
It’s okay if you are angry.
It’s okay if you stay in bed all day watching Netflix and eating week-old pizza straight out of the box it came in.
Do whatever you need to do in order to get through this time of year.
You will be judged either way.
This year for Thanksgiving, I made enchiladas and ate next to a small vial of my husband’s cremains.
Last year for Christmas, after spending time with family, I went to the movie theater alone. I wanted to start a new tradition, just for me and my husband. I picked a movie, kept a seat open for him, and cried during half of it. But that is now how I plan on celebrating Christmas going forth, taking a day and going to see a movie, just him and I. It’s a date and I know I’ll see him there.
There is no right answer. There is no wrong answer.
What you do this year could be polar opposite of what you choose to do next year.
Take a quiet moment, listen to your heart, and let it tell you how much effort you can put into the holidays this year. Decide what you are going to do and try not to let anyone convince you otherwise.
Only you know what is best for you.
Only you know what is best for your family.
And if that means escaping to a beach somewhere and forgetting the “hellidays” even exist, so be it. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to come to!
Take extra special care of yourself as Christmas looms closer and a new year that we have to live without our person lingers in the background.
It’s going to be hard. It’s going to hurt. But you can get through this. And you will.
One small, timid, grieving step at a time.