Dealing with Grief During the Holidays
There are other critical dates and times that affect grieving people, but the holiday season is the most universal stimulus to provoke memories and feelings about important people in our lives who have died or who are no longer present at our holiday celebrations and rituals because of divorce or other estrangements. Many people struggle with their feelings during the holidays, not knowing how to deal with their own emotions, much less those of others they love.
Here are ten tips, the first five of which relate primarily to the death of someone important to you. That person might have been a loved one or may have been what we call a “less than loved one,” but you will probably still be affected by their absence. The second set of five tips relates either to the death of a spouse or to divorce. We are not comparing those experiences, but we are suggesting that the tips can be helpful in either situation.
The Death of Someone Important to You:
• Don’t Isolate Yourself. It’s normal and natural to feel lost and alone―but Don’t Isolate―even if you have to force yourself to be with people and participate in normal activities.
• Don’t misuse food or alcohol to cover up or push down your feelings. As children, when we were sad about something, we were often told, “Don’t feel bad. Here have a cookie, you’ll feel better.” The cookie doesn’t make the child feel better, it makes the child feel different and the real cause of the sadness is not addressed. When we get older, alcohol and drugs are used for the same wrong reasons―to mask feelings of sadness.
• Talk about your feelings, but don’t expect a quick fix. It’s essential to have someone you trust to talk to about your memories and the feelings they evoke. Ask your friend to just listen to you and not try to fix you. You’re sad, not broken, you just need to be heard.
• While it’s important to talk about your feelings, don’t dwell on them. Telling the same sad story over and over is not helpful―in fact, it can establish and cement a relationship to your pain. Better to just make a simple statement of how you feel in the moment. For example, say, “I just had a sad feeling of missing him.”
• Time doesn’t heal—actions do. The myth that time heals a broken heart is just that, a myth. Time can’t heal a broken heart any more than time can fix a flat tire. Time just goes by. It’s the actions you take within time that can help you feel better.
Death of a Spouse or Divorce:
• Just because you feel lonely doesn’t mean you’re ready to start dating. Don’t start dating while your heart is still broken or you will guarantee that the next relationship will fail. Being ready to date is a function of the actions you take within time to repair your heart. This is valid whether you’re dealing with a death or divorce.
• Don’t get too busy—avoid hyperactivity. Be careful not to get too busy. Being super active just distracts you, it doesn’t really help you deal with your broken heart.
• Maintain your normal routines. Adapting to the changes in your life following a death or a divorce is an enormous adjustment. You are learning how to move from being with someone to being alone. It’s never a good idea to add a host of other changes while you’re trying to adapt to so much disruption in your life.
• Go through the pain, not under, over, or around it. It’s very tempting to try to avoid the pain associated with a broken heart. But it’s also a very bad idea. Whenever you skirt the pain, all you’re doing is pushing it away temporarily. It will always come back to haunt you.
• Find effective guidance or you will sabotage your future. While the grief of a broken heart is the normal reaction to the death of your mate or to the end of a romantic relationship, it’s very helpful to find effective tools to help you discover and complete everything that was left emotionally unfinished. Otherwise, you will drag your emotional baggage into the next relationship and ruin it before it really starts.