**A throwback post I have previously written for another blog over a year ago. Originally written 11/17/2016**
This will be the fourth holiday season without my mom. This is the fourth year I prepare the food she taught me how to cook. The fourth time I wish I could call her for some tips because I still feel like I am “mixing it wrong”. Even though it always turns out just like hers or very close to it. I miss her and it makes it very hard to enjoy the holidays without her. At times, I get sad and angry. Or I may feel nothing. Within all the memories, the good is mixed in with the bad. Good holiday moments and bad holiday moments. I won’t mention all the memories but dealing with them hasn’t been easy this year.
Since my last mental health-related post (here), I have been newly diagnosed with PTSD and recurring depression while getting treatment after having a panic attack and injuring myself. The day that it happened was July 24, 2016. That day would have been my mother’s 70th birthday. I thought I was okay most of the day. I didn’t cry or feel sad.
I don’t recall even thinking about her a whole lot either. But that day, a family member posted on Facebook a picture of her at her old job, wearing a very familiar wig and a pair of glasses, and she was smiling her beautiful smile that I miss so much. Unfortunately, seeing the picture lit the fuse to a lot of negative emotions that were piled high like sticks of dynamite. Without going into too much detail, I lost it. I was throwing dishes and I injured myself on my wrist. I spent the night in the emergency room and voluntarily spent just under a week at a local psychiatric crisis facility.
I don’t want myself or anyone else to go through what I went through. I want to help ease the angst the holidays can bring to those still in mourning. I’m not a professional counselor, therapist, psychiatrist, or psychologist, but I do believe in bearing one another’s burdens for the sake of making them a little lighter.
Ever since my mother’s passing, the months of February, July, November, and December have been tough. February is my birth month. July is her birth month and the same month she passed, 4 days after her 66th birthday to be exact. November and December are, of course, the holiday months’ families get together.
For you, it may just be the holiday season, but whatever time of the year it is, it’s okay to acknowledge that they aren’t here anymore and that you miss them. It’s okay to cry or not cry. It’s okay to want to skip the holidays with family, but try not to. My next point will explain why.
All Too Familiar Faces, Sights, & Sounds = Triggers!
It’s hard to see and hear from family members who will remind you of your lost loved one in some way. They may speak of them because they miss them too. You may remind them of the one who is gone because you could have been raised by them, look like them, talk like them, etc. You may have a family member or two that look like your loved one, sound like them, etc.
In my case, my aunts and uncles may do or say something that will remind me of her. One of my aunt’s voice sounds just like her, except she speaks a little slower. Also, the older I get, the more I begin to look like my mother. My young son also looks a lot like her too.
Then, there are the family members that will remind you of what was wrong with the loved ones that are gone or what went wrong while your loved one was alive. Those are very hurtful and draining moments. Whether they’re truthful comments or not, we aren’t obligated to deal with any of it.
There is also the music, there are shows, and movies that were their favorite and they heavily remind you of them. You hear their voice, their laughter, you see their smile, and you want it all back.
Holiday Milestone Plan of Action:
I’ve concluded that every milestone after my mother’s passing shouldn’t be ignored anymore. No more pretending I’m fine. Even when I don’t feel sad, I should still do a little extra to make sure I am still intact mentally and physically. The very thought of a lost loved one is a trigger.
It’s important to find or create ways to continue mourning in a healthy way because the stages of grief have no special order, no expiration date, and they may reappear. I understand that every person is different in how we deal with missing someone, but I would like to share 12 different ways that we can make sure we remain whole during this holiday season and the others to come. I believe that the piled sticks of dynamite can be diffused days or weeks before the holidays come around.
**Just to let you know, I may mention some spiritual/religious things. Please know that I am not trying to offend or force anything on anyone. They are just some ideas and I will be exercising with you and will try to share the results on my blog.**
Related Post: My Holiday Self-Care in Memoriam Journal.
12 Tips for Holiday Self-Care in Memoriam:
- Make sure your basic needs are being met. Your basic needs are non-negotiable. Do not skip meals and water, bathing, sleep, and trips to the bathroom during this time or at all. Making sure you are well-fed, rested, clean, and refreshed will help to keep up your resilience during some of the most draining moments of the year. So, even if you are the holiday host this year, don’t neglect yourself for anyone. Have a shower or soak in the tub while the turkey is roasting. Ask someone to come over to help you cook or have them bring something already made.
- Journal your good memories of your loved one. Decorate the journal and make special doodles in it that relate to him or her. Make that one specifically for the holidays and keep it in a private place for the next milestone.
- Keep a box of tissues near for when you feel like crying. An empty room and a thick pillow are awesome for when you feel like screaming.
- If you are lacking emotions but still want to keep yourself whole, do something that day that will make you feel good. Take the day off work or do a half-day, go to a movie, have a snowball fight, jumping on trampolines, visit an old friend, look for free or darn-near-free stuff to do on Groupon, etc.
- Write down all the movies, shows, and songs you’ve enjoyed together. Make a playlist, Netflix list, or Redbox Rental list and plan to listen or watch them this year. If you don’t remember what they liked, pick something you think they would.
- Write a letter to them or to God about how much you miss them. Pour your heart out about the good and the bad about them. Say what you’ve always wanted to say. Update them on what’s been going on since they’ve left. Write a letter of forgiveness, if needed. Some of the loved ones we miss have hurt us and it’s time to work on letting it go.
- When the words escape you, look up bible verses or in memoriam quotes about mourning, sadness, family, and forgiveness. Then write them down in your journal.
- Wear their favorite color during the milestones. My mom’s favorite color was blue.
- Avoid storing those clapbacks in your mind. The bag of clapbacks can be heavy during a sensitive time. When the family gets disrespectful, attempt to drain your energy, and try to bring up the past about your lost loved one, either walk away, walk completely out, or shut it down and let them know that they are being rude and it’s not the time or place to bring up some mess. Then, say nothing else to them about it.
- Briefly share good memories about your lost loved one to your children, friends, or partners who may not have met them or have known them well. Share photos and share advice they used to give to you with others.
- Attempt to talk about how you feel (or don’t feel) with a licensed counselor. They are skilled professionals who may be able to give you tips on how to cope in a healthy way during the holidays.
- Start a new holiday tradition in their honor. It can be anything. It can be a combination of any of these tips. Try attending a play or an orchestra concert wearing their favorite color and afterward eat some of their favorite snacks. Or visit their gravesite and leave flowers in their favorite color or a color that represents how they left. For example, my mother passed of a cardiac arrest. Therefore, I would wear red or leave red flowers and ribbons for women’s heart health.
There is no wrong way to take care of yourself and there’s no wrong way to mourn if you are not harming yourself and others. And no matter you much you miss them and want them back or to be in heaven where they are, it’s imperative that you are safe and healthy while still on this earth.
Your existence is important. I’m telling you what I have told myself and I wouldn’t tell you if I didn’t believe it and practice it.
I had an awesome mother. I miss her so much and because I miss her, the importance of my self-care is even higher. I know that she wouldn’t want me to neglect myself. Self-neglect isn’t an option because self-neglect is the loss of oneself. Except, the body is still present. Especially, when I have my husband, my son, my family, and friends who love me. I wouldn’t want to force them to mourn my loss whether I am alive or with the Lord.
Please let me know what self-care tips you have for the holidays. How do you celebrate the life that was once here?
This post was written in memory of
(July 24, 1946 – July 28, 2012)