Not-So-Traditional Holidays and Escape Plans: Holiday Grief Edition
Written by Erin Mitchell, MSW, LCSW
For so many people who are grieving, getting from November to January every year seems practically impossible. People would oftentimes just rather skip the whole thing and hibernate the season away. The impulse is certainly understandable, since this is a time of year where family and happiness are emphasized everywhere around us. While it is certainly very difficult and heartbreaking, you can make it through the holidays.
You can find a previous blog with 10 holiday survival tips for grievers here. I also wanted to share a beneficial article on ways to honor a loved one during Chanukah, which you can find here (source: Aish.com).
This year, I wanted to share some more information on actual ways to plan for the holidays (including escape plans). These recommendations are just that, only recommendations and may not be right for you or your situation. Every family tradition is different and has a different importance to them.
To begin, consider what aspects of the holidays seem to be the most difficult. It is also important to communicate with others in your life about potentially making changes. While not every loved one’s opinion carries the same weight, it may be a good idea to communicate with children (adult or otherwise) or others who are grieving the loss as well. It may be beneficial to talk with others about being open to the possibility of changing traditional holiday plans for yourself or your family, that way they are aware and can possibly help you make some decisions about what to do.
There is no rule stating that making a change for this year’s holidays will result in a permanent change. You can do something different this year and then return to previous traditions next year, it is up to you/your family. You may decide that you want to make a large change for the holidays, such as going on a vacation to somewhere new and not having your usual holidays at all. You may choose to keep some elements the same (or feel like you have to) and change others. It is completely up to you, as there are no right or wrong changes. The only caution that I have is to use substances in moderation during a time of year where access can be plentiful. In addition, it can result in increased depression to completely remove yourself from all activities and from your support network.
It may be beneficial to consider all of the tasks that you traditionally do for the holiday season and then decide if these things matter for each area:
For example, if you traditionally have hosted a holiday for your family in your home.
Some suggestions that others have used in the past to get through the holiday season:
Making an Escape Plan
This is a topic that has been addressed before, so feel free to skip it or skip to the parts that are helpful for you. If this is a new concept for you, go ahead and keep reading. An escape plan can be a good idea if you feel worried about “breaking down” or “not being able to handle” something that comes up at a gathering during the holidays. Even if you feel comfortable being open in your grief, sometimes we just want some alone time. Creating an escape plan ahead of time can help reduce some of the anxiety you may be feeling about upcoming events.
Some escape plans ideas:
There are many other suggestions out there with ways on getting through the holiday season and feel free to get creative with what you would like to do. Not all of these suggestions will work for everyone and that is completely fine. There is no wrong way to get through this, just know that you will get through. Be gentle with yourself this year and don’t feel like you “should” or “shouldn’t” be doing something. Take it day by day and be flexible in your plans. Not everyone will understand, but they don’t have to because this is your journey through grief. Do what you can to take care of you during this difficult time.
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