Coping with grief during the holidays

coping with grief
Attempting to deal with the upcoming holidays while coping with grief can feel daunting, but there are a few ways to prepare yourself.

For some people, this time of year can be difficult, as they scan across the room, searching for a familiar smile, but are left wanting. It’s a time of year for joy and celebrations, but how do you celebrate the season when such an important person is no longer a part of the festivities? When a loss has occurred, we navigate a formerly familiar time as a foreign event.

Attempting to deal with the upcoming holidays while coping with grief can feel daunting, but there are a few ways to prepare yourself.

Give yourself room

Understand that it is OK to grieve as you go through the holiday season without your loved one. Have a plan to visit with friends, meet with family and let yourself be loved. But if the idea of being surrounded for a long period of time is overwhelming, give yourself some room. Respect your own needs, and bow out accordingly. Sometimes, acknowledging that a fallback option is available will comfort you enough to stay at the gathering.

Honor your loved one

Just because your loved one isn’t physically present, his or her memory will still be a large part of any family gathering. Consider sharing a favorite story about your loved one or create a tribute. Perhaps you honor his or her memory with a single candle on the dinner table or by hanging a stocking on the mantle. A donation to one of his or her favorite causes or charities is also a wonderful way to remember your loved one and help others in his or her name. Putting your loved one at the forefront of your mind will not disrupt your grief progress; in fact, it solidifies the momentous part that person played in your life.

Make new traditions

It may be hard to face past traditions with the knowledge your loved one isn’t around to enjoy them. It may be necessary to make a few traditions of your own. Perhaps your loved one didn’t care for the hubbub of the shopping mall, but you enjoy window shopping. Maybe Christmas music is energizing to you, so let it be a source of holiday cheer. Making the holidays “your own” creates new memories that acknowledge the power of being yourself.

Reach out to others

For many, this time of year is about being surrounded by those we love. Often, we don’t want to burden those around us, so we hide our disappointment, fear or emptiness, but this is the time to let loved ones help. Sharing your emotions is a cathartic way for others to know how much you cared for the person you lost. In that honesty, let them know that this time is difficult and be in agreement on the holiday plans about how you wish to honor a loved one’s memory.

Write it down

The grief process can invoke such varied feelings that it can be hard to work through them. While it feels like a juggling act, give them all their own space to be understood and acknowledged. A great place to be brutally honest without judgement is a journal. This is where genuine feelings can be unleashed. Its beauty also lies in its ability to be a time capsule, showing how far you’ve come. Also, make it a point to list what you’re thankful for once a day. It can be simple or grand, but the important part is finding it.

Find help

If you feel this time is too much for you to bear and the overwhelming sense of loss seems to swallow you whole, seek a professional. Many therapists are well versed in grief and can assist you in navigating this time. They may be able to comfort, guide and channel feelings in a way that is productive and assistive. Perhaps just one or two sessions with someone who understands grief can help release many distressing emotions, allowing you to enjoy your holidays without the emotional weight. In the end after all, the loved ones who have gone before us would hope we continue celebrating this time of joy in the healthiest way possible. Throughout the process, I encourage you to seek love, light and hope during this season.