Sometimes the holidays aren’t the most wonderful time of year.

The holidays are such a great time of year, but for some of us they can be hard. There are a lot of people out there (and in our Gateway community) who are dreading the smell of pumpkin spice lattes and sound of jingle bells because it means facing a season of painful memories. Memories that remind them of a person, place, or time that’s no longer around. For those who have experienced a loss, whether it’s the death of a family member or major life change, the holidays may not be the most wonderful time of the year. If this is you, we’re so sorry. Even though it may be hard to picture, there is hope.

For Margarita Miranda, last year’s holidays meant no one by her side to man the grill, greet the kids, or kiss goodnight. After several years fighting the aftermath of a terrible car accident and then liver cancer, her husband, Jimmy, passed away in September. “We didn’t get the miracle we thought we would,” she says. “I really missed him and felt like I wasn’t special to God. Like other people got their miracles but I didn’t.” And the holidays were right around the corner. Margarita and her family had been in contact with Gateway Care throughout Jimmy’s illness, and when he passed, Gateway Care helped with everything from the funeral arrangements to connecting her to legal counsel and long-term bereavement support.

In addition, she attended GriefShare, a series of classes dedicated to supporting and helping people process their grief in a healthy way. “I had so many emotions that Christmas, but I didn’t feel alone,” Margarita says. “People—thecommunity of love around me—helped me conquer the sadness. They made me feel loved again.”

 

Practical Tips for Surviving the Holidays

PREPARE—The ambush of emotions can attack at any time; prepare beforehand and be kind to yourself. It’s okay to take a moment to pause and gather your emotions before resuming an activity.

ACCEPT—Experiencing difficulty at this time of year with your loss is real. Don’t try to push it down or act like it doesn’t matter. Remind yourself that it’s a season, and this difficulty will wane.

SOCIALIZE—Don’t hibernate. Loss can make you feel extremely lonely; insecure or sad feelings may tempt you to isolate yourself, but find some safe, kind company and force yourself to go out, even if it’s only for a short time. Or invite a friend over to have dinner or help decorate your house.

MANAGE—Keep a realistic leash on your expectations for this season. Movies, songs, and even romanticized memories can paint an unrealistic picture of the holidays and leave you feeling even worse.

DON’T ANESTHETIZE—Numbing emotional distress with drugs, alcohol, or sweets creates more depression and can potentially promote an unhealthy addiction.

TRIMMING—If old Christmas ornaments or holiday trimmings cause too much pain, don’t hang them this year. In addition, if certain traditions or outings do the same, consider mixing things up and doing something different. The departure from the norm can make things more bearable.

GET UP AND MOVE—Take care of your physical well-being. Healthy foods will give you strength; fattening and sugar-filled foods can worsen your depression. Exercise and sunshine produce natural stress reducers.

ON CALL—Have the phone number of your counselor, pastor, church, close friend, or hotline favorited on your phone. Make the commitment to call someone if negative or depressing thoughts get fierce.

SET BOUNDARIES—Explain to your family and friends what you are capable of doing this year and what you aren’t. Don’t let others guilt you into taking on more than you can handle. Again, be kind to yourself.

REACH OUT—Chances are there are other people who are alone and struggling during the holidays too. If you feel able, reach out to them and see if you can tackle the season together.

 

If you are experiencing major life events like a birth, hospitalization, life-altering illness, death, or bereavement, Gateway Care is here for you. We have prayer teams, trained pastors and volunteers to respond, grief resources, and more. Don’t go through these things alone. For more information or if you’d like to get involved to help others, visit care.gatewaypeople.com.