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7 Ways I Survived the Holidays After Loss Last Year.

 

The holiday season used to be one of my favorite times of the year. I couldn’t wait to deck the halls.

I looked forward to hearing the shrieking babies on my flight because it meant I was on my way to participate in some holiday celebration. I wore flashing Rudolph earrings and baked cookies to treat my coworkers.

Fast forward to last year when I lost a beloved family member. This event transformed my life in so many ways. And I hate to say it, but it sapped the holly jolliness right out of my winter. However, I survived the celebratory season, and am working on coping with the feelings that the loss brings up this year. Here’s what helped get me this far.

1. Turned Off the Morning News

“Only 10 more shopping days until the big day!” If one more chipper newscaster flashed her pearlies while chirping any variation of that phrase, I was going to throw a shoe through my TV. Every time I tuned into any media, I was bombarded by messages asking me to engage in the hedonistic celebration of all things capitalism.

Here’s the thing: do you know how financial bloggers always tell you to save an emergency fund and avoid maxing out your credit cards? They never tell you what to do when you need to use those safety nets after losing a loved one. I can tell you, you and your family might spend every waking moment scrambling to survive. So, I decided to unplug.

I didn’t need to see my friends’ pictures of the white elephant party, I RSVP’d No due to lacking the funds for a silly gift. I certainly didn’t need to see the new Benz my high school buddy’s husband left in her driveway wrapped in a bow. While it may seem shallow, I felt better when I wasn’t swimming in messages that I was a failure for not engaging in the festivities.

2. I Set Fire in the Rain

Last year, a friend made me a Dammit Doll for the holidays. I immediately loved the concept, even if I couldn’t bring myself to destroy something she so lovingly crafted. I had no such reservations about symbolically destroying my rage-filled thoughts. I journaled. I wrote endless lists of everything I lost.

I took my venom-filled pages outside on a gloomy, damp day, and I burned them in the firepit. Conventionally constructive? Perhaps not. Healing? Absolutely.

3. I Gave Back to Others with Less

I still crave company during the festive season. How does the old song go about not being able to be with the ones you love? I made up a new way to love the ones I was with by volunteering at a local food bank.

The dollar store had plenty of supplies for me to create gift bags of socks and snacks for the homeless people I regularly saw on area street corners. I took the time to shake their hands and ask their names when I handed the bags out. I know now how one unfortunate event can devastate someone’s entire life. Giving back helps me focus on what I do have rather than the things I miss.

4. I Meditated on Acceptance

I can practice positive thinking all day long, but my life will never be the same as it was before. Nodding to this reality doesn’t mean I’m giving up, it means I’m accepting what I cannot change. If you talk to any 12-stepper, they’ll tell you this mindset matters.

Take it from me, trying to avoid your problems or drowning them with distractions like alcohol or sex won’t help you heal properly. You’ll only delay your healing longer.

5. I Distracted Myself Through Learning

That’s not to say there are no healthy ways to take your mind off your pain temporarily. Did you know the average person spends more than two and a half hours daily using social media? I didn’t realize my dependence on technology until I unplugged. Then I wondered what to do with all my newfound free time.

I signed up for language learning courses when my favorite app store had a sale. I enrolled in inexpensive WordPress courses. Now, I have new skills on my resume. Learning a new hobby can distract you from your holiday blues in a productive way. Take up cross-stitch or crochet, or learn how to grow a windowsill herb garden.

6. I Duked It Out

Before my loss left me with a wave of depression, I loved a good workout. Exercise releases endorphins — those natural feel-good chemicals your body produces. Plus, it’s easier to resist groaning about the painfully slow line at the cash register when you’re too exhausted to raise a fuss.

7. I Invented Personalized Festivities

My first holiday alone, I held my own personal Jason Voorhees film festival by watching all the vintage Friday the 13th flicks I adored as a teen. Now, I treat myself to a positive new book every week or so. I take leisurely bubble baths that last for hours. I do everything I can to build myself up to feel better on the day-to-day.

You Can Survive the Holidays, Even When You’re Hurting

I won’t lie, I still struggle around the holidays. I have to fight actively to avoid slipping into depression. However, the above have helped me stay sane during this trying time of year. Whatever loss you’ve recently suffered, I hope they help you cope too.

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Kate Harveston
Kate Harveston is a freelance writer and blogger. Her work focuses on health and culture. When she isn’t writing, she can usually be found curled up in her hammock with a book or exploring the city for trendy coffee shops. You can visit her blog, So Well, So Woman to read more of her work and receive a free subscriber gift!