Holidays & Loss – How to Manage Grief During the Holidays
The holiday season is generally regarded as a time of joy to be shared with family and friends. However, for those who are grieving lost loved ones, this is often not the case. The holidays can actually magnify our sense of loss. Seasonal events and traditions that are supposed to be festive and fun may serve as painful reminders of our loved ones’ absence. Whether this is your first or tenth holiday without a loved one, you may find yourself experiencing heightened feelings of grief that seem overwhelming. We want you to balance your grief with still finding joy in the holidays. So how can you manage these feelings and survive the holiday season? Here are some tips:
- Avoid engaging in grief comparison- Grief is a universal response to loss, but the actual experience of grief is unique to each individual. Everyone processes and copes with grief differently, so your grief may look different from another friend or family member’s grief in response to the same loss. Know that there is no right way to grieve.
- Create new holiday traditions- Don’t be afraid to do something different because this year is different. Get creative and do something out of the ordinary or alter your previous traditions to better fit with this change in your life. For example, if you don’t feel like you have the energy to cook your usual meal at home, then go out to dinner!
- Find ways to honor your loved one- Acknowledge the absence of your loved one and participate in a holiday ritual to remember them. Here are some ideas to consider:
-Light a candle for the dinner table or leave an empty chair
-Eat your loved one’s favorite food
-Share your favorite memories of your loved one
-Say a few words of remembrance for your loved one
4. Give yourself permission to grieve- There are so many different feelings that can come with grief. You may experience sadness, anger, guilt, and joy all at once this season. All of these are valid. Accept these emotions without judgement. Allow yourself to feel them.
5. Set boundaries- Do whatever feels right for you during this time. You don’t have to go to every holiday event. Do things because you want to do them, not because someone else would want you to. If you need to be alone, honor that. If you need to be around others, seek them out. Make time to care for your own needs. Get enough rest and exercise.
6. Plan ahead- Many find that the anticipation of the holidays without a loved one is worse than the holidays themselves. Planning ahead can ease your anxiety about what the holidays will be like. Be sure to plan some comforting activities to look forward to. Come up with an escape plan so that you can easily leave an event or activity if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
7. Volunteer/Give- Spending time helping others this holiday season may bring some comfort in the midst of your grief. Donate to those in need in your loved one’s honor or volunteer with an organization.
8. Reach out for help- Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re struggling during the holidays. Talk about your feelings with loved ones and be honest about how you’d like to do things this year. Consider seeing a mental health professional or joining a grief support group. Here are a few resources:
-KinderMourn – Sliding scale services for bereaved parents, children, and teens
-GriefShare – Local grief support groups
-Novant Health Hospice & Supportive Care – Free counseling and bereavement support groups for anyone grieving the death of a loved one (Huntersville, Charlotte, Matthews)- (704) 384-6478
-Hospice & Palliative Care Charlotte Region – Sliding scale support groups in Huntersville, Lincolnton, Davidson, Charlotte, & Pineville
If you are grieving the loss of a loved one this holiday season, know that you are not alone. We understand that this can be a difficult time and are here to support you. Reach out to us!
Source(s): health.harvard.edu, psychologytoday.com, mayoclinichealthsystem.org, aarp.org