Coping with Loss Through the Holidays

Reflecting on Memories

For some, the holiday season signifies the beginning of celebration of family, friends, blessings, sharing time with loved ones, and reflecting back over the previous year as the present year draws to a close.

However, for many, celebration of the holidays is far from an anticipatory event.  In fact, loss and grief may even cause one to completely avoid the holidays at all costs.

One way to navigate the holiday season while grieving the death of a loved one, the loss of a significant family member through divorce or separation, or even the loss of a job, finances, or other important parts of life is to map your way through the events of the season. 

Focus on the Big Picture

Mapping entails creating a sort of Venn diagram visual aid of what matters most to you and your family during the season.  In the example here, we start with a large circle in the middle of a big piece of paper, an easel, or a whiteboard, write the word Christmas Holiday in big letters through the middle of the circle. 

Next, brainstorm with the family and come up with ideas for enjoyable things that each person might like to do.  What days are important to them over the next weeks?  Christmas Eve?  Christmas Day? New Years Eve? New Years Day?  Write these days of importance in their own circle connected to the larger Christmas Holiday circle.  Take time to reflect and write into each circle what would make that day special (ie., having cinnamon rolls and bacon on Christmas morning).

Inside each circle family members can write special foods they like to eat, places they like to visit, events they want to attend, ways of reaching out to others in need, and attending local celebrations.  The list is as diverse as the family who completes it wants it to be.

Allow this to be a free-flowing and fluid project by placing the picture in a common area of the home so that family members can continue to add to the circles each day.  Also, make sure to include a circle of things you may want to avoid for this year.  This doesn’t mean you will always avoid that activity.  It is simply recognition of events which may be difficult at this time for a member of the family. 

Next, evaluate your created map with those who contributed to it.  Prioritize which activities you will do as individuals and which activities will be done as a group or family.  Be sure to identify those events you will not be doing, as well, being careful not to judge or shame others for their need to lay a particular tradition aside for this season in order to heal.

Finally, go do the activities listed in the circles with friends and family members.  This is a helpful way to keep the holidays balanced with time for celebrations, while still acknowledging the pain of grief that accompanies death and separation.  Another benefit of this experience shared with family members is that it becomes difficult to get caught up in worry and grief to the point of excluding all good things the holiday has to offer, such as the celebration of new life in Christ and the opportunity to spend time with others who may be grieving, but need support and compassion through the holiday.  Mapping your way through the holidays is a wonderful expression of the verse in Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.   

If you are having difficulty with processing grief through the holiday season, please be encouraged to reach out to our team at Restoration NOLA for support.  We are here for you!

written by Whitney French


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