Grief and the Holidays: 5 Practical Tips to Help Cope

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

4. Volunteer

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.

Southend Psychiatry 

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.

 

Fighting Depression Together

In the US alone, about 1 in 10 people experience depression. From the pandemic to social unrest, there are many factors in today’s society that contribute to this rising mental health condition.

Psychology Today states:

“The trigger for depression can be almost any negative experience or hardship. Triggers can be external—losing a parent (especially when young), losing a job or developing a debilitating disease—or they can be internal and invisible, such a brooding over that most common of experiences, a failed relationship. People differ in their susceptibility, both by virtue of the biological heritage, their parenting heritage, their styles of thinking, the coping skills they acquire or deliberately cultivate, and the degree to which situations afford them the ability to control their fate.”

What is Depression?

Webster defines depression as a mood disorder that is marked by varying degrees of sadness, despair, and loneliness and that is typically accompanied by inactivity, guilt, loss of concentration, social withdrawal, sleep disturbances, and sometimes suicidal tendencies.

Signs of Depression

According to the latest edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, depression can be considered an illness when at least five symptoms occur together for at least two weeks. Symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness
  • Irritability, angry outbursts, or low frustration tolerance
  • Loss of interest in or ability to enjoy usual activities, from sex to sports
  • Sleep disturbance, whether inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much (hypersomnia)
  • Fatigue and lack of energy; everything feels effortful
  • Appetite disturbance, including loss of interest in eating and weight loss or overeating and weight gain
  • Anxiety, agitation, and restlessness
  • Slowed thinking, moving, or talking
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt, a focus on past failure, self-blame
  • Difficulty concentrating, remembering things, and making decisions
  • Recurring thoughts of death
  • Physical pain such as headaches or back pain that has no clear cause.

How Can Therapy Help?

At SouthEnd Psychiatry, our therapy team first helps patients understand what thoughts, feelings and beliefs are contributing to their depression. We then begin to develop healthy coping skills to combat and prevent depressive episodes. 

Negative thought patterns directly affect our mood. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) helps us understand these patterns. We learn how to reframe our thoughts through newly developed skills including meditation.

How Can We Help a Loved One With Depression?

Helping someone with depression can come in many forms. Acknowledgment, understanding and empathy are a great place to start! Here are five ways you can help a loved one battling depression:

  • Encourage therapy treatment. Depression is a complex disorder. Talking to someone who is trained and experienced can mean all the difference in the world. SouthEnd Psychiatry has many different therapy plans and means of communication to help make seeing a therapist easy.
  • Get active. People battling depression tend to loose motivation yet physical activity is a great form of behavioral activation. Invite your loved one on a walk. Exercise, sunshine and companionship all have antidepressant qualities.
  • Intentional sleeping habits. Our sleep patterns can be negatively affected by depression. Encourage your loved one to be intentional about getting a good night’s sleep through meditation, a healthy night time wind down routine and consistent bed times.
  • Keep talking. Maintaining regular contact with someone battling depression is key. Take time to listen without judgement or criticism. Social contact helps prevent alienation and seclusion.

Southend Psychiatry is here as you navigate the complexities of today. We can come alongside you or your loved one to offer support and help. Contact Southend Psych today to inquire about appointment availability and get on your way to a better you.

Southend Psychiatry 

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.