The holiday season takes on a new feeling after the loss of a loved one. Times that were once full of joy and laughter becoming heavy with sadness and grief. Occasions like family dinners, holiday parties, and even simple tasks can bring a flood of emotions. This four part series will look at ways to cope during holidays starting with Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve and how to include a deceased loved one during these days.
For our family, the “Holiday Season” starts with Halloween. While Halloween is very painful for bereaved parents with wondering what their child would dress up as and trick-or-treating children, it can also be extremely difficult for anyone grieving a loss. Halloween decor is morbid with skeletons, coffins, and tombstones, and this can trigger powerful emotions to those who are reminded of their loved one’s death and funeral. Driving to work or going to the store become more stressful tasks because of these decorations. Memories of past Halloweens can also be bittersweet. There are a few ways to soften the Halloween holiday experience.
Halloween Survival Guide
Invite close family and friends (I call them my Grief Tribe) to stay with you in your home on Halloween.. They can answer the door and pass out candy, take your children trick-or-treating, or just keep you company. The first year after Liam died, I didn’t want my son to miss out so my mom took him to a few houses in our neighborhood. I was so grateful for that help and for the people who sat with me at home.
Carve a special pumpkin in honor of your loved one. We carved the letter “L” with angel wings and a halo for Liam. Rhys was excited to include his brother in the activity and it made me feel like he was with us. Some ideas for your pumpkins are their initials, favorite cartoon or character, or their silhouette. We like to make toasted pumpkin seeds after for a treat too.
- If you lost an infant or child, dress up a teddy bear to keep with you. Our Liam Bear has outfits for both Halloween and Christmas. It brings me comfort to include him in this way. We bring him to the pumpkin patch, out trick-or-treating, and to any parties we attend.
- If you have to participate in any festivities, keep it simple. Get store bought costumes (or dress as a grieving person...how scary!), buy halloween treats instead of making them for any office or school party, and take a break whenever you are feeling overwhelmed.
- Just turn off the lights. It’s the universal symbol of “next house kids, no candy here” There is no reason to participate if it brings you pain. Better yet, leave the house and go see a funny movie.
While Halloween is a minor holiday in the season, it can still be rough for many grievers. There can be a lot of pressure to make the day special for other children or grandchildren, but try to remember to take a break or ask for help to get through the day.
How do you “celebrate” Halloween without your loved one? Don’t miss the second installment in the Holidays after Loss Series, Thanksgiving.