For anyone who has lost a loved one, the holidays can be an extremely emotional time. Holidays can evoke even the deepest emotions that you have buried for far too long (guilty!). Oftentimes, I think the mentality can be to simply survive the holidays.
Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. It is a time of year in which you can spend time with loved ones without the hustle, bustle, and stress that Christmas can bring. My dad worked in a warehouse for 40 years, and he was always stressed out and so tired because he worked so much overtime during the holiday season. But Thanksgiving was always a happy time before the Christmas season kicked off the next day. My parents oftentimes hosted Thanksgiving, and my mom, dad and I were a well-oiled machine. My mom would be the head chef and my dad and I her soux chefs. She told us what to do, and my dad would stir the stuffing and cut up all the staples, while I set the table and made desserts. I have so many great memories of Thanksgiving at our house.
And because of this, I was so nervous for my first Thanksgiving without my dad, and to be honest I am anxious just thinking about this Thanksgiving which is only a couple days away.
Here are 3 suggestions on how to survive the holidays from my experience:
- Establish a plan: Even though you might not stick to it, I think it is important to establish a plan for that day. In your mind, think about what you will be doing at every step of the day. It might even be helpful to write it down. If you are able to visualize the day in your mind, it can help you not get caught off guard.
- Prepare what you’re going to say: Now, there will probably be some people who will ask you about your loved one. And it can be helpful to practice what you are going to say and how you want that conversation to go. For instance, if someone asked me about my dad, I could say, “Thank you for asking about my dad. He really loved Thanksgiving, and we had so many great memories together on this day, so I am a little emotional thinking about that.” Now, there will also be people who will NOT ask about your loved one and that might evoke some negative emotions. I truly think people aren’t trying to be mean, they simply don’t want to cause you anymore pain or don’t know what to say. If you would like to talk about your loved one, and nobody has brought up your loss to you, I would probably say something like, “I am sure we are all thinking about it, and I just wanted to mention that I am thinking about my dad a lot and I am really thankful to all of you for your love and support during this sad time.” This will give your loved ones an opportunity to say something that they might have been thinking.
- Leave yourself an out: In the morning, you might feel like you want to be around loved ones and then once you’re at a holiday party something could trigger you and you want to change your mind. If that happens to you, know that is very normal. I say, hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Maybe you drive separately so you can leave whenever you want. Then you don’t feel stuck and you know you are in charge. Or, if someone invites you for a holiday event you can say, “Please loosely hold this invitation for me. I would love to come, and appreciate the invite, but I am not sure how I will feel until the day comes.”
If you have some other suggestions on how to survive the holidays, I would love to hear them!