In Part I of “Surviving the Holidays After a Loss,” it was suggested that survival was the main aim of managing the holidays. As a bereaved person, you may be able to do this by developing and utilizing the “four C’s” plan to make it through the holidays.
“Communicate needs,” “change routine,” “cut back on activities,” and “celebrate the memory of a loved one” are the “four C’s” suggested. Questions may arise when considering to use the “four C’s” to shape a plan for the holidays as to how to use such suggestions and how making a plan really helps you to make it through the holidays. Thus, the purpose behind Part II of this article lies in what you can do to make a plan and how to live it out in a helpful and healthy way. You may also inquire as to the value of such efforts and with such an inquiry, may learn how to cope with your loss during the special times of the year.
Your efforts begin with making choices about what you want to do or not to do, who you want to be with or not to be with, where you may want to go or not to go, even having a desire to just stay home is a choice and it is okay to choose. Whatever the choices made, the decisions belong to you who made them and not to someone else. The danger is that if someone else is allowed to make the choices when you are the only one that needs to decide, the result is you end up catering to the whims, the wishes, and the wants of others, leaving you at the mercy of others. When this happens, loss of control and chaos may cloud the circumstances and the celebration of the holidays can become a disaster and a nightmare for everyone, leaving you, as the bereaved, to become “Mr. or Mrs. Scrooge” during a time when you may be the most vulnerable and easy prey to the ghostly memories that can haunt you.
What lies behind the choices you make, is your right to grieve in your own way; the right you have to give yourself permission to grieve as you see fit. By giving yourself permission to grieve, you begin to set healthy boundaries and to prevent others from imposing their wants, their wishes, their wills upon you. By setting boundaries you do not end up having your grief taken away from you, even when others try to be helpful with well-meaning intentions. Such well-meaning intentions are derived from a lack of understanding of the grief process and a sense of being uncomfortable about dealing with death.
In developing a plan, the basis of the plan begins with being patient and gentle with yourself in thought, word, and deed. To do so, invites the planning choices to be made in a thoughtful way to be acted upon in and with good intentions. To begin the planning process, you may ask yourself a series of questions, questions referred to previously, and others, like: What do I want to do? Who do I want to have around me? Whose company do I desire to be with me? What traditions do I want to retain? What traditions do I want to change? What activities will cause me the most pain? What events will trigger the flow of tears and emotions that will cause me and those around me to become uncomfortable? Where do I want to be during the holidays? How will I tell others, including my family, what my wishes, wants, and whims are for observing the holidays in my way? What do I truly want to happen during these special days of celebration? What do I not want to happen during these difficult days of the year, especially in light of my bereavement?
Answers to these questions and careful thinking about your own situation serves to shape and develop a plan. The answers to the questions also dictate the choices to be made which may determine how you survive the holidays and whether it is done in a healthy way or not. To even consider making a plan and to deal with such matters in your holiday planning is a risk, but it may be a means to ease the pain of your loss, not only for yourself, but also, for those gathered around you. The suggestions given may assist you in making it through the holidays and special days and to do so with some semblance of order. If done with intention and with a willingness to grieve in a healing and healthy means, the spirit of the holidays will spring forth, even when the memories which come with the tears of pain and sorrow come flooding forth to wet one’s cheeks with a sense of love and care too deep for words. These special and precious memories can bring a smile, even as you remember your loved ones and the depth of your love for them. Open yourself to receive the eternal gift of peace which passes all understanding and brings a sense of well-being and hope even in the midst of death.