Grief is complicated. It is ever-changing and unique for each person going through it. Coping can sometimes feel overwhelming… especially during the holiday season when certain songs are played or when special festive decorations bring back memories with that loved one.
You are not alone.
Our hearts can feel conflicted between the joy of the season and the painful feelings of our own loss. Family gatherings, holiday traditions, and memories of years past all seem to contribute to these distressing emotions.
There is hope.
Although totally removing our feelings of loss is not possible; there are ways we can help reduce some of that internal conflict and even make our experiences enjoyable.
1. Plan Ahead
Psychology Today offers this guidance: “Often, the anticipation over how hard something is going to be is worse than the actual event. So while that holiday dinner may only last two hours, you could easily spend three weeks dreading it. Create a simple plan for how you’ll get through the holidays to avoid extending your anguish. Drive yourself to holiday functions or ride with a trusted friend who will take you home whenever you want. Just knowing you can easily leave at any time can help you enjoy the activity much more than you would if you felt stuck.”
Certain holiday roles may need to be filled when those have been vacated by loss. Planning ahead can help avoid unexpected sorrow. Consider who might fill those empty spaces before the moment arises.
2. Honor Traditions and Memories
A helpful way to keep your loved one’s memory present is to continue practicing holiday traditions. You can also find ways to honor those who are no longer here by dedicating time to remember and celebrate them. Grief.com gives us these examples:
- A prayer before the Holiday dinner, about your loved one.
- Light a candle for your loved one.
- Create an online tribute for them.
- Share a favorite story about your loved one.
- Have everyone tell a funny story about your loved one.
3. Allow Yourself to Feel
We all grieve in our own unique way. There is no right or wrong way. You may even experience different emotions from year to year. That’s okay. Laugh and embrace joy when it comes. Grieve and mourn when those feelings arise. It is important to acknowledge all of our feelings and to not avoid them.
Developing healthy coping skills can help walk us through these moments:
- Go for a walk
- Start or continue journaling
- Deep breathing
- Practice yoga/meditation
- Speak positive affirmations to yourself
Doing something to help another can lift a grieving spirit. We can draw comfort from doing good to others. Even in the midst of our grief, we have so much to offer to those in need:
- Donate to a family in need.
- Volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen.
- Invite a guest to holiday dinner that might otherwise spend it alone.
- Support another who is also grieving a loss.
5. Ask for Help
Surround yourself with friends, family, and coworkers who love and support you. Reminding loved ones that this time is difficult and sharing your holiday plans with them can help. It can also be extremely valuable to reach out for professional talk therapy. If you are struggling with grief and the complicated feelings that arise during the holidays, don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
Southend Psychiatry is here as you navigate the pressures, demands and triggers of the holidays. We can come alongside you to offer support and help. Contact Southend Psych today to inquire about appointment availability and get on your way to a better you.
Schedule your appointment today with one of our SouthEnd Psychiatry clinicians. Book your appointment online or call 1-800-632-7969 to get started today.