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Managing Grief During the Holidays

Decorating Christmas Tree

Grief can present itself as a barrier to enjoying the holiday season - especially if you’ve experienced a recent loss or haven’t worked through the emotions associated with a loss that occurred some time ago. Many grieving people report a desire to hibernate from November to January so they don’t have to deal with uncomfortable emotions that arise during the holidays.

It takes a huge amount of energy to deny all of the sensory input we receive during the holidays and it is nearly impossible to avoid them completely. But, many people still try to do this. Does this sound like you? What you may not know is that by avoiding the holidays you may be compounding your loss. You have already lost a loved one, but now, you are also losing the holiday season.

Below are some tips that may help you to move through the holiday season without denying that the holidays are here. All of these tips offer the same basic message: there is no right or wrong way for you to do things. Just do what feels right for you.

Be Gentle With Yourself

Listen, without judgment, to what you need this holiday season and give yourself permission to take care of you first. Recognize any sources of discomfort, decide what you can realistically manage, and let go of the rest. Acknowledge that grief depletes energy and may impact your ability to complete simple tasks and attend events this holiday season. It’s okay to change traditions and rituals, say no to invitations, and leave events early. Remember that you can always choose to return to old traditions another year, if it feels right.

Find Purpose and Meaning

You will notice that other people tend to rush around during the holidays, constantly checking off endless to-do lists. This environment can intensify the natural feelings of purposelessness, isolation, and disconnection from others that typically accompany grief. To reduce these feelings, find one thing that is special to you and incorporate it into your life this holiday season. Maybe you have always wanted to attend a painting class, tour the local chocolate factory, or take your dog to a national park. Give yourself the gifts of meaning and value this year, regardless of how you may be feeling.

Memorialize Your Loved One

Find a personal way to remember your loved one this holiday season. This doesn’t need to be a large gesture, just a way that is unique and meaningful for you and for your loved one. For many people, lighting a special candle, playing a certain piece of music, displaying a photo, or carrying a loved one’s ashes can provide tremendous comfort during the holidays. If you feel comfortable doing so, share your memories with family and friends.

While the emotions associated with grief and loss can be uncomfortable, they are also necessary for healing. Allow yourself to feel the emotions that come up for you and talk about them with someone you trust. If you don’t feel comfortable talking with anybody in your support system, you may want to consider attending a grief support group or personal therapy. You can contact your local hospice facility for a list of referrals for bereavement services.

I wish you peace during the holidays.

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