The holiday season is fast approaching, and this can be a very anxiety-triggering thing for those who are grieving. Whether the grief is recent and raw, or whether it has been many years since the loss – the thought of getting through milestone/time-marking events (such as the holidays) can feel overwhelming.
The truth is, we don’t usually know what we will actually need during that time, and often we have even less idea how to get it while we are in crisis.
We can have options ready to implement as needed, and a support system on alert.
Here are some things you might think about when pulling together a plan for coping with an upcoming day that is likely to be triggering and/or grief-filled:
- Do I wish to be alone or with others? Do I wish to be completely alone in the house or alone in a separate space with others still in the home?
- Do I need people to call me and check in? Would we speak about my grief or distract me with something else? What might that be?
- On holidays and event anniversaries, how would I like to remember them? How would I like others to remember them? Talk about the person in depth and share stories? Make a toast or take a moment of silence?
- Do I want to skip the holiday/event altogether?
- Who would be the people I would like to be “standing by” in case I need to call upon them? Who would be those I anticipate definitely wanting to be nearby?
- Do I need to stay inside or get out and about?
- What comforts me? Hugs? Music? A movie? Someone brushing my hair? A cup of tea?
- Do I prefer speaking or silence? How can others let me know they are bearing witness to my grief?
You get the idea. Again, it is essential to remember that you are not going to know for certain what you will need until you are actually in that moment. And by the way, what you need is very likely to change throughout the day. It is helpful, then, to develop a list (yes, write it down) of a variety of possible needs and coping strategies, taking care to allow for strategies that may seem to be in opposition to one another (alone vs. together, for example). Assemble what items you might need based on that list. And then, most importantly, let your support system know about the list. Tell them ahead of time that you may or may not need to ask for their support that day, and that you would like them “standing by.”
People usually want to be helpful and supportive, but may struggle to know what exactly that should look like for YOU. We can help them help us by thinking about our possible needs in advance and communicating them clearly.