Grief and the Holidays
Holidays are traditionally a time that you spend with loved ones, so it can be a particularly difficult time when you are grieving. Waves of grief may hit you stronger as you remember the traditions or notice that there is an empty seat at the table. The rush of memories and intense feelings of loneliness and sadness may feel overwhelming. Here are some ideas to help make the holidays more bearable.
“Give yourself permission to lean into what brings you comfort and leave behind what feels difficult."
It’s OK to skip the holidays. You may choose to not participate in the holidays this season, and that is okay. Give yourself permission to politely decline invitations, not eat traditional meals, or be alone if that is what feels right to you.
It’s OK to not do everything. The holidays are a busy time and can be overwhelming in the best of circumstances. So you may decide to prioritize certain gatherings or activities over others. Give yourself permission to lean into what brings you comfort and leave behind what feels difficult. Don’t say yes to things out of obligation. Remember, it’s OK to say no.
Perhaps you want to change certain traditions. It may be too difficult to keep up with old traditions, or maybe you did not like some of the traditions in the first place. This may be an opportunity to find new activities, decorations, food, etc. that bring you comfort or a bit of joy.
Be intentional about your grieving. It’s important to try to not ignore your grief or else it will come out in unexpected ways. Acknowledge your feelings and make space for them by engaging in an activity that feels right to you. Perhaps journaling, sharing stories about your loved one, toasting your loved one before a meal, lighting a candle, or creating a picture album of past holidays with your loved one. If you're feeling overwhelmed by your feelings of grief, try using calming skills I discuss in this blog post.
Don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. This one is tricky, because you may not know what you need. Or your needs might change. It’s okay to cancel plans or ask for different things at different times. Perhaps you would prefer to not talk about your loved one, or to be asked about how you are doing. You can preemptively tell people what you need beforehand. If telling people what you need face-to-face or over the phone is too difficult, send an email or text beforehand.
“Don’t say yes to things out of obligation. It’s OK to say no or to cancel plans.”
Serve others. The number one way to fight sadness and loneliness is to create connection with others and the community. Not only can it provide a distraction, but it can also remind you that you’re not alone. Maybe you’d like to organize a coat, food, or toy drive, volunteer with your favorite charity, or participate in the adopt and angel program.
Take care of yourself physically. Taking care of your body is critical when you are grieving. This includes eating balanced meals (or at least something even if you’re not hungry), staying hydrated with water, moving your body and practicing good sleep hygiene. Click here for my blog post about how to get a better night’s sleep.
Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to grieve during the holidays. What works for one person may not work for another. And what works for you during one holiday may not work during the next. So be patient with yourself and listen to your intuition about what will bring you comfort this holiday season.
If you need some help navigating grief through the holidays, schedule a complimentary 15 minute consultation to talk about how grief counseling can help.