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Grieving During The Holidays

Developing coping skills.

Paulette Wooten/Unsplash
Source: Paulette Wooten/Unsplash

Soon we will be hearing people wishing each other happy holidays. But for many, it will be anything but happy. The holidays always bring a special challenge to those in mourning. Whether it is the Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas, each special day reminds us of time we shared with our loved one and the things we used to do together. Waves of memories can overwhelm us. We begin to worry and dread the upcoming events. We wonder if we are going to survive and how we will manage. Many times the anticipation is worse than the realization, and other times it can be just as bad as or worse than we anticipated. What is needed is a way to cope and come through the experience in one piece.

You might find the following suggestions helpful:

Be kind to yourself. This is perhaps the most important thing you can do. Don’t take on more than you can handle. Give yourself permission to feel whatever you are feeling. You don’t have to put on a “happy face” for others. Say “yes” or “no” to things based on what you need or want. Plan ahead. Decide what is important. Accept your limitations at this time. These limitations won’t last forever. If it is too much for you to do, do not decorate your home, send cards or cook. Also be sure to keep hydrated, get adequate rest and sustenance.

Ask for and accept help. After a loss, it can be a challenge balancing being with others or being alone. During the holidays, it is important for you to let others know what you need. You may feel as though you are a burden to others, but people want to help you although they often do not know how. The same applies for your emotional needs. Others may feel uncomfortable talking with you about your grief. Just let them know if you want to talk about what you are going through or just want a shoulder to cry on.

Include the deceased in the celebration. Just because your loved one is not with you physically, you do not have to pretend as though they never existed. Some people are afraid to say the deceased’s name or reminisce for fear of making you cry. The truth is you are probably crying a lot of the time anyway. Let others know it is OK to do so by doing it yourself. Holidays are a good time to share memories of your loved one. Telling funny stories is a wonderful way of including them in the holiday. Honor the memory of the beloved in special ways that have meaning to you.

Allow yourself to find some enjoyment. When we are in the throes of grief, it is almost impossible to think that we will ever find joy in our life again. We also may feel that we are somehow dishonoring the memory of our loved one by enjoying ourselves. The truth is that we all need laughter in our life. It can be very healing. Try to allow yourself some pleasure in the season.

Do what you need to do to get through the day. Some people decide to keep the same customs for each holiday while others decide to make changes. For some, it is easier to be in a different environment and might leave town during the holiday. Others may decide to forgo their own celebration in order to be of service to others such as delivering holiday dinners to the needy or somehow helping those who are alone and forgotten. Whatever you do decide to do, make it easy on yourself.

In the coming months, this will not be the only article you will see about coping with the holidays. The number of articles printed speaks to the distress that mental health professionals know people experience during the holidays. While there are many strategies for coping with grief, it is important that you find what works for you.