Holiday Grief and Nutrition
The holidays are an opportunity to enjoy family, friends, food, drink and customs, as well as ethnic and religious rituals. In addition to joyous experiences, like giving and receiving cards, gifts and donations, the holidays can also bring feelings of sadness, stress, disappointment, depression and loneliness to the surface, especially when we have experienced a loss. Not everyone is “happy” or “merry;” many people are mourning during this season. Bereaved people may decline to accept holiday invitations because they feel that they don’t want to “bring the celebration down,” or because they prefer isolation over socialization. Many eat a variety of less healthy foods when gathered for the holidays. Pay attention to your choices and the fuel that you are putting into your body.
Be mindful of what you are eating or not eating. Many people do not want to eat alone or cook for themselves. Find someone who is in a similar situation and see how you might share meals. Be aware of those who are in the military, are divorced, and geographically dispersed or in assisted living or nursing homes, as the holidays can add stress in those situations as well.
Get in touch with what you want to do or do not want to do, as opposed to what you think you should do. Avoid being overly concerned about what others may think or feel if you attend or choose to leave early from a celebration. Be advised, however, that if you continue to decline invitations, no matter how respectfully, people may stop inviting you.
Some people take comfort in visiting the cemetery or remembering those who have preceded us in death by serving a favorite food, sharing recipes, looking at family photos or DVDs, leaving an empty chair or having a special centerpiece. You might choose to do something different this year. Routines can be comforting or confining. Be courageous in asking for help when you need it. Communicate with clarity so people really know how you FEEL. Ask others how they feel and deeply listen.
Avoid people or situations that make you feel guilty or drain or deplete you. If these people are in your immediate family or circle of influence, distance yourself emotionally and physically to reclaim your energy and protect yourself, even if it means going to a different room for a while.
In closing, nourish yourself with healthy choices, self-care & proper nutrition. Get adequate sleep and appropriate exercise. Appreciate nature. Spend time with those people and pets that you love or listen to music. Nourish yourself by being of service to others and by expressing gratitude; legacy letters or ethical wills are a great way to let people know that you love, care about or appreciate them.
Marguerite O’Connor, M.Ed.
Goodwill Ambassador, Chicago Jewish Funerals
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