During the holiday season, we think of family traditions, making memories, and spending time with loved ones. However, the holiday season can cause feelings of grief to become much more intense. The loss of a loved one can make even the most joyful celebrations difficult to bear, no matter how much we used to enjoy them. Whether you lost a loved one just a few months ago or several years ago, the holiday season can bring up feelings of grief in a fresh, painful way. While many things can be set-aside during the holidays, feelings of grief and loss cannot be restricted from holiday festivities.
If you would like to prevent grief from having a chokehold on your yearly traditions, then consider these tips for managing grief during the holidays.
1. Admit that your feelings of grief and loss are real.
Acknowledge your feelings. Be honest about your grief so that you can be better prepared to deal with it when negative feelings surface. Being honest with yourself is the first step in creating a manageable plan for dealing with your feelings in a healthy way.
2. Give yourself time to grieve.
It’s tempting to let distractions help you forget how you’re really feeling. While it’s not good to persistently dwell on the feelings of grief, it’s also not beneficial to bottle them up. If you’re feeling sad, acknowledge this and cling to the joy that you do have. Process how you are feeling so that it becomes possible to move on in a healthy way.
3. Do less this holiday season.
You do not want to feel overwhelmed on top of your grief. If you already know that the holidays bring a lot of stress for you, try minimizing. This may mean you do fewer activities than last year. You could spend less money, opt out of preparing the Christmas dinner, or spend less time on decorations. Whatever it takes, help prevent additional stress by avoiding unnecessary tasks and responsibilities.
4. Let others know that you need support.
Let the people who love you most be there for you during this difficult time. Call when you need them and plan quality time with family members who will help you appreciate the season. If others know that you are struggling, they are able to help you in meaningful ways. If you stay silent about your grief and pain, others are unable to help. We refuse help for many reasons. When we do, we isolate ourselves, making the feelings associated with loss exponentially worse. If you’re grieving, be willing to accept support from those who care about your well-being. If no one offers support, ask for it. The people closest to you may be willing, but they just aren’t sure how to help. Don’t be afraid to make your needs known.
5. Focus on the positive.
Focusing on a positive or meaningful experience that you shared together can soothe the grief associated with the loss of a relationship. If you find that you’re stuck in a rut of grief because of a regrettable final encounter, make the choice to move beyond the experience. Forgive yourself. No good comes from beating yourself up over the past. A positive mental focus can help you establish a solid foundation your healing process.
6. Find positive outlets for your time.
Find an activity that is meaningful to you and commit to it. Get involved in volunteerism. Make new friends. Find a new hobby. Treat yourself to your favorite self-care pass-time, such as exercise, massage, or reading. Schedule events and then stick to the plan. Give yourself something to look forward to. You may not be looking forward to this holiday season. In fact, it may be one of the toughest ones you’ve ever had to face. Whatever loss you’ve experienced, whatever grief you’re struggling to make sense of, remember, this is not how your story ends!
7. Create new traditions.
This is a common suggestion, but it’s worth noting. If your memories are linked to a tradition that reminds you of a loss, it may help to create a new one this year. However, it may not be necessary to replace the tradition at all. You may just want to pass an established tradition on to someone new. You may not want to cancel the telling of the Christmas story because Grandpa passed this year, but instead, pass the responsibility on to another family member.
8. Honor their memory.
It may be difficult, but channeling your grief into giving can be gift to you, as well. During the holidays, you may see or think of a gift that would have been perfect for the loved one who is no longer here with you. Instead of dwelling on the pain of this, consider buying the gift anyway and giving it to someone. This is a way to honor their memory and do good for someone else. You may not be ready for this, depending on how recent you lost your loved one. Other methods of honoring your loved one are to give of yourself to others through volunteering.
9. Consider professional help.
If grief is making your life so difficult that it is hard to complete your daily tasks, consider reaching out for professional help. If you find it hard to get out of bed, go to work, or even have conversations with others, it may be time to seek professional counseling. Counselors and therapists are trained professionals that are able to help you make strides in regaining control of your life.
If the loss of your loved one is recent, this may be the most difficult holiday season you have experienced in your life. If the loss happened years ago, you may still find it difficult to cope this time of year. The pain of grief is real and unlike any other feeling. We understand and hope that they suggestions will help you find peace and comfort this holiday season.