Healing Through the Holidays

by Lisa Hepner

The holidays can be hard if you’ve lost a loved one. But the holidays can also be a time to honour your loved one and heal. Here are a handful of things that may help you move through grief, and even find some joy, during the holiday season.

Decorate for Christmas. I know this can be hard. The first year after losing my mom I didn’t want to decorate. Heck, I didn’t even want to get out of bed. But I forced myself to decorate and once I started, I got into it and went all out. I know my mom would have wanted me to decorate. Christmas was her favourite time of year. So, I honoured her by decorating. And once the decorations were up, the beauty of the twinkle lights brought me joy. I also ordered a special memorial ornament for my mom and hung it up on the Christmas tree. That made me feel better. Like she was with me. But, if you’re not in the mood to decorate, that’s also okay. It’s important to honour where you’re at but maybe you can start with something small like some lights around a window or setting out a snow globe?

Every morning upon waking, state one thing you’re thankful for. When you’re grieving it’s hard to feel thankful. We often think about what we lost and not about what we have. But by acknowledging the good in your life, you attract more of it and you see more of it. You’ll soon realize that you have a lot to be thankful for, including the time that you did get to spend with your loved one and the memories that you have.

Volunteer for a cause. It could be for a one-time event or something that involves a regular commitment. I remember reading a quote by Richard Paul Evans that went something like, the best cure for a broken heart is to use it. This formed the premise a Christmas checklist that I made for myself and also wrote a book about. I love animals so I became a foster parent. If you love animals but can’t be a foster, you can volunteer to be a dog walker or a cat petter. The unconditional love of animals certainly made me feel better. Maybe you’d like to help feed the homeless? Donate to a women’s shelter? Read to kids? Volunteering, or giving, takes us outside of our own pain and drama and helps us feel like part of a solution. It feels good to give.

Find love. I know this may seem like a strange one but it’s based on a principle that says whatever you seek, you shall find. When a loved one dies, it’s hard to feel and see love. I thought when my mom died that the love we shared died as well, but it did NOT. That love will always be there. I started looking around for all the love I had in my life; the love from my husband, pets, brother, etc. The love and kindness of a neighbor or a stranger. Love is all around us, we just have to notice it.

If you’d like more suggestions, go to www.thechristmaschecklist.com for a free list of 12 things you can do to help you move through grief. But also know that you need to honor wherever you’re at. If you feel like lying in bed and crying, you must allow space for that as well. And it’s okay to seek help from a counselor or support group too (I did both). Hopefully, despite your loss, you will be able to experience some joy over the holiday season.

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