Managing Grief through the Holidays – How to find joy when you’re in sorrow.
Managing Grief through the holidays. Grieving the loss of a love one isn’t easy any time of the year. And during the winter holidays it can be exceptionally difficult. How do you find a way to wholeheartedly join in the joyous festivities happening all around you? Whether this is your first holiday season without your loved one or your fourth, know that it is ok to experience a wide range of emotions during this time and that you can and will get through it.
A few safeguards
This holiday time of year brings extra stress for most. It is crucial to take a moment and prepare yourself to manage your feelings and the added stress as best as you can. Here are a few significant ways to help safeguard yourself against the holiday blues this season.
Managing Grief through the Holidays
Safeguard #1 – This is hard
Trying to continuously ignore the fact that your loved one is missing will only make it harder. Instead try acknowledgement. Come to terms with the reality that this season will be hard for you. At times when you least expect it, you’ll be overcome with the weight of grief and sadness. Acknowledge that this is a tough moment and that you’re allowed to feel sad. Allow yourself to cry, whether it be in private or with someone who is also feeling the same loss as you. Lean on each other and know that you do not have to pretend everything is ok. It won’t be hard all the time. Some things will still come easy, feel right and bright. But honor your feelings of grief when they arise and acknowledge that you are a human being.
Safeguard #2 – Love
Surround yourself with love. Focus on and share experiences with those loved ones in your life who are present. This is part of the whole holiday experience anyways right? Take the time and make the effort to be in the company of those who support and love you. This means being selective and mindful for whose company you choose to be in. You don’t have to accept every invitation if it’s not going to be a positive and pleasurable experience for you. It’s absolutely ok to prioritize your time and whom you spend it with. Don’t sit back and wait for invitations from others. If you feel good in the company of certain family and friends reach out to them. Engage in an activity you both enjoy. Even a quick phone call, video chat or 30 minute coffee can be enough to fill your heart with love.
Safeguard #3 – Control
Clearly define what you can and can’t control. This is a good skill to develop any time of year. But it will really come in handy now. We are only truly in control of ourselves – our choices, our actions and our reactions. We are not in control of long lines, rude people, extra traffic or any other miscellaneous daily or holiday mishaps. When we expect that all plans will go smoothly we immediately set ourselves up for failure and suffering. Instead, try absorbing the fact that actions will happen. Sometimes those will be in our favor and sometimes we will have to problem solve. When it’s time to problem solve, take a moment to acknowledge that you’re being challenged, then solve the problem or accept the change without choosing to let the event define your experience or set the mood. You have the choice. The power is yours.
Safeguard #4 – Expectations
It’s no secret that expectations around the winter holidays tend to run high. Do yourself a favor here, evaluate your expectations and lower them. After losing a loved one, the holidays will be different. You’ll need to assess what you’ve historically done and make some changes. For example, instead of making an entire tin of cookies for everyone in your office you give each person one. Or instead of hosting the annual neighborhood gift exchange you request someone else host this year. Does shifting your expectations mean you dismantle every holiday tradition? No it absolutely does not. Many you’ll keep exactly the same. But do check in with yourself and let go of some things that will simply be too much. Stay flexible and allow things to be different.
Safeguard #5 – Honor and New Traditions
The physical body of your loved one might be gone, but their spirit can live on within you if you allow it. Connect with your loved one by creating new activities and even traditions that honor their memory. It could be as simple as making their favorite dish. Try buying a gift they would have liked and donate it to charity. Buy something for yourself that they would have gifted to you, or that reminds you of them. Listen to their favorite holiday songs. Engage in their favorite holiday activity or event (even it’s it not yours). Reminisce and look at photos, spend time with mutual loved ones and just talk about holiday memories. Is there a special tradition between just the two of you? Keep it alive by doing it with someone else, or on your own. Whatever you do make it special and keep it simple.
Safeguard #6 – Be Kind
Spreading kindness and joy and giving to others is an automatic mood booster. Be mindful of your expectations and limitations, but go ahead and find ways to bring joy to others. The small things matter here like holding the door for the person behind you, or allowing someone to go in front of you in line just because. What’s just as important here is to be kind to yourself. Acknowledging again that this year will be different, take multiple moments to honor your own needs. If you need to step away for some alone time, do it. Ask for a hug if you need one. If you need to laugh call the friend who helps you do that.
Treat yourself to an overdue massage or a gift to yourself that you absolutely don’t need but really want. Indulge but be mindful. Having sweets and such is common during this time of year. Go right ahead and enjoy, but be mindful of not overdoing it. Consuming too much alcohol or too many sweets has a negative impact on the brains feel good chemicals, leaving you feeling lethargic, sad and anxious. Do your best to be kind to yourself, physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Managing Grief through the Holidays
Seek professional help from a therapist if you need the extra support. Meet the team of talented therapists we have on staff at High Expectations Counseling. We are all highly trained to assist you in moving past the cycle of grief and get you to a place of feeling peace and harmony once again.