Grief During the Holidays
The holidays are known for being “the most wonderful time of the year.” Many of us have grown to expect the holidays to be filled with joy, magic, and family. However, when you are dealing with grief, the holidays can appear to do little more than emphasize feelings of loss or loneliness. All the joy and magic that used to fill your holidays can feel as though it has faded when you have lost something or someone that brought great value to your life.
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one, the holidays may have a way of making you miss them more than usual. For many, the holidays can bring on feelings of nostalgia and beautiful memories. As one takes the time to look back on the holidays they were blessed to spend with the person they lost; their hearts may fill with an aching for what once was.
Different people will likely experience grief in different ways. People may experience a vast range of emotions and symptoms when grieving, such as:
Constant crying spells
Intense feelings of loss and sadness
An inability to focus on anything outside of the grief
Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
Regardless of what grief looks like for you, know that there is no right or wrong way to grieve. Grief is not a linear process. Some days, you may feel fine- only to be hit with a wave of grief as the weather begins to cool and the holidays begin to kick into full gear. If the holidays have brought you a whirlwind of emotions, know that it is completely normal. You will experience happiness again. You simply have a bit longer on your journey to healing.
Coping with Grief During the Holidays
All in all, the holidays can feel especially painful for those who are dealing with grief. You will get through this, though. If you are coping with grief this holiday season, know that you are not alone. The holidays can be a wonderful time of the year for some but can trigger memories that make them miss the old days more than any other time of the year for others. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to cope during a tough holiday season.
Talk to Someone
Sometimes, leaning on the people you love and trust is just what you need to get through a tough holiday season. So don’t hesitate to talk to a friend or family member about the pain you are experiencing. They don’t need to offer the perfect advice- only a listening ear and shoulder to cry on. Talking to a loved one you trust may help you begin to feel less alone, validated in your feelings, and understood as you struggle with your grief. When a loved one offers their support, accept it. If you trust them, allow them to help you through this difficult time.
Allow Yourself to Experience Your Emotions
Grief has a way of making you feel like you are on a rollercoaster of different emotions. Grief can bring you on a whirlwind of emotions as you experience a cycle of the five stages- denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Don’t try to swallow your emotions. This will only cause a multitude of mental health issues.
Honor the Ones You’ve Lost
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one this holiday season, including them in your holiday festivities may help you feel a bit better. During family gatherings, you can take a moment to do something to honor them, such as:
Create a new tradition that accommodates and honors your loved one
Share a special story about them
Light a candle in remembrance of them
Visit the memorial site with your family on the day of the holiday
Change Your Approach
The holiday season doesn’t have to be a one-size-fits-all approach. Celebrate the holidays in a way that will bring you peace or joy. Know that you don’t have to follow any tradition that brings you pain or suffering.
Know That it’s Okay if You Don’t Celebrate This Year
If you believe that celebrating the holiday season will bring you nothing but pain, know that it is okay to skip out on this year’s festivities. Your mental health and wellbeing come first. There will always be next year.
Take Care of Yourself
Do the things that will make you feel better and avoid the things that will leave you feeling worst. If you fear attending a big family gathering will only emphasize your grief, skip it. Spend this difficult time doing things that make you happy, surrounding yourself with people who make you feel supported, and taking the steps necessary to get you closer to healing.
Practice Self-Love and Compassion
Don’t force yourself to jump into anything that will stunt your healing. Take it slow and give yourself patience as you work through the difficult emotions that often accompany grief. As mentioned earlier, the grieving process won’t be linear. Some days will be fine, while others will feel like a dark cloud is following wherever you go. As time goes on, your wounds will begin to heal. Allowing yourself a safe and supportive internal environment will work to encourage healing.
Seek Professional Support
If you are grieving, know that there is help out there. Within your community, you should be able to find a support group full of individuals struggling with the holidays, as well. Attending a support group can be extremely helpful, as hearing the story of others who are struggling similarly to you might help you feel less alone in your pain.
You can also seek the help of a therapist. A therapist is a trusted mental health professional who will help you talk through the feelings and thoughts you are experiencing. They can also help you figure out healthy and effective coping mechanisms to get through this holiday season.
Sometimes, grief can make you feel as though you will never enjoy the holiday season again. Fortunately, this isn’t true. With a little bit of time and effort toward healing, you will one day be able to feel joy once again.
However, if you feel as though your grief seems to not be going away anytime soon, you may benefit from seeing a mental health professional. In therapy, you will be given the opportunity to work your emotions and thoughts with a trusted medical professional. If you are in need of help, we are here for you. Contact us today.