By Catherine Greenleaf
As suicide loss survivors, we can often dread the holiday season. Christmas music tells us to be jolly, but sometimes our grief is too heavy and we just can’t work up the enthusiasm. However, by giving ourselves permission to take care of ourselves, we can take control and feel self-empowered – regardless of what the relatives may say. Here are some tips to help you along:
Tip #1 – The most important thing you can do this holiday season, or at any time, is to put yourself with safe people who validate your loss.
Tip #2 – Avoid becoming overwhelmed. Don’t feel you have to accept every holiday party invitation you receive. Pick and choose.
Tip #3 – Have a Plan B. If you go to a party and someone upsets you, have a phone number handy of someone you can call for support.
Tip #4 – Be sure to plan quiet time at home alone for yourself during the holidays, so you can enjoy some peace of mind.
Tip #5 – Be a chipper! To make life more manageable, steadily chip away at your holiday gift list. Instead of attempting to buy all your gifts in one trip to the mall, chunk it down into several smaller trips. This will help you avoid the last-minute “rush.”
Tip #6 – Use the internet or mail-order catalogs to shop if driving to busy stores or malls unnerves you.
Tip #7 – Try to make wrapping gifts a pleasant experience. Put on the holiday music, make yourself a cup of cocoa, eat a candy cane, and wrap.
Tip #8 – As with any activity, if you feel overwhelmed, then put everything away for another day.
Tip #9 – The temptation to overindulge will be great. Keep in mind that alcohol is a depressant. Too much sugar can make some people emotional and even weepy. Dark chocolate sweets can keep some people awake all night.
Tip #10 - The average American can gain 5-10 pounds over the course of the holiday season, which can be very depressing. Moderation is key. Eat before you arrive so you won’t nibble all night. Find interesting people to take your mind off food.
Tip #11 – If family relations are contentious, put time limits on how long you will visit. You can craft a high-quality holiday with family by limiting your visit to five hours. After five hours, put on your coat and get out.
Tip #12 - Remember the Holiday Golden Hour – that first hour of any holiday gathering. It’s the safest time to be there. After several hours, drinkers start to get drunk and obnoxious, kids get whiny and cranky, and relatives start making sarcastic remarks. Give yourself permission to leave any situation you find stressful or unsettling.
For more holiday survival tips, you can order the book: Inspirational Stories of Handling The Holidays After Loss at www.opentohope.com.