10 Suggestions for Living WITH the Holidays this Year when someone you love has died

1. You will survive.  Remind yourself that you will survive. You will.  Christmas Eve and Christmas Day will come and they will go and it will be December 26th ... that day after Christmas.  Would you like to do more than just survive, however?  If so, keep reading...

2. Create peace.  Take some time to think about what will bring you the most peace this holiday season.  

        a.  Keeping all of your Holiday traditions in tact? 

        b.  Tweaking some traditions a bit and adding new ones? 

        c.  Throwing out all the old traditions and starting new ones?

        d.   Flying to a warm, tropical place and completely skipping the holidays this year?  It's okay if you do that you know.  You have my permission!

3. Say Their Name.  Don’t expect anyone to mention the name of the person you love who died.  Believe it or not, that’s your job.  People will look to you to determine whether or not it’s safe to talk about the person that died.  Here are a few ways to include your loved one:

        a. Serve/bring your loved one’s favorite dish to the holiday get-together – talk   about it!  Even if your beloved loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches best.  BRING THOSE.

        b. Bring a favorite picture – pass it around. Work it into the centerpiece.

        c. If you have photos of your beloved with every person who will be seated at your holiday table, use these photos as place cards.

        d. Bring a favorite memento – a book, a poem, a watch, a piece of jewelry, a toy – and share it with guests after dinner. 

        e. Have your loved one’s favorite music playing in the background.

        f.  Be sure to include the names of all your family members who have died as you gather to pray.  Invite all at the table to include the name(s) of their loved one(s) who has/have died.

4. Plan a special evening for close family and friends when you REMEMBER. Ask everyone to bring a favorite photo and write down a special memory. Set time aside to sit in a circle and share the photos and stories.

5.  Give yourself permission to cry.  When someone you love dies, tears are normal, natural, healthy, and healing.  It's okay to cry.  Tears are a concrete, tangible sign that you are healing.  Tears are sacred. When/if you're able to cry, let the voice inside you head say, "I am healing.  I am healing. I am healing."

6.  Smile.  It’s okay to smile or even laugh.  You’re not being disloyal by enjoying yourself. 

7. It’s also okay to stay in bed, all day, if you like.  You will get out when you are ready and able. 

8. Buy yourself a gift. Wrap it. Write a note – to you – from the person you love that died.  If you're beloved were alive this Holiday Season, what would he/she want you to have as a gift?  It's okay to buy that special something for yourself.

9. Buy someone less fortunate than you a gift. Give it in memory of your loved one.  This is a wonderful way to spread the love. 

10. Light a candle. Hold on to hope.

Additional resources, click ~

1.  How to help a friend or family member

2.  A Simple Candle Lighting Ceremony

My book Permission to Mourn: A New Way to Do Grief is available in paperback and as an eBook at amazon. You can find it by clicking here:  Tom's book    

If my NEW WAY of "doing grief" resonates with you, I'd love to work with you one-on-one. If you are in the Rockford, Illinois area we can do that in person, otherwise, I am having great success working with people all over the country via Skype or FaceTime. Email me at tomzuba@aol.com if you would like to take the next step on your grief journey and we can schedule a session.



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  • Tom, I’m reading your book and it is a great gift, but unless I’ve missed it so far I have not found how you answer the question: are my tears grief or just self pity? My friends do a great job of keeping in touch but I so want my kids to initiate the call of “how ya doin’, Mom” but I don’t want it to be obligatory, just genuine.

  • Thank you for saying that to mention my loved one’s name is ‘my job’. I was always feeling so sad when no one mentioned my late husband when we get together but now, thanks to your words, I am free from this disappointment and will speak of my husband in the company of his friends and not hold it against them for not speaking of him first. It is these little light bulb moments that are making the difference for me as I travel this grief journey and learn to live again without my husband by my side. Thank you

    Barbara Wallace
  • I can’t tell you enough how awesome these tips have been for me and my daughter! After losing my Mom and Dad, and my Brother just 3 months ago, I thought I couldn’t survive the holidays! Now I know better and am doing better. Now, I can teach my daughter this new way of doing grief. Thank You for helping me change my perspective :)

    Renatta Keith

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