October has passed and the festive Halloween decorations have been stowed away until next year. The Thanksgiving turkey and cranberry sauce has been enjoyed and the house is quiet once again. For many, the turn of the seasons from October to December is filled with sadness as they contemplate spending the holidays without the ones they love. A season that should be joyful has become one of stress, fear, and grief. The holidays can be a tough time for people after the loss of a loved one. Christmas parties, music, and decorations that are meant to bring joy sometimes serve as a painful reminder of what we’ve lost. Therefore, it’s important to understand how to cope with the grief and sadness we may be feeling to get through the holidays in a healthy and fulfilling way. There is no “right way” to handle grief. Everyone grieves differently and heals differently. In the past people would wear black to alert people around them that they were in mourning and perhaps wouldn’t be participating in holiday events as they processed their grief. Today this practice has fallen away. In our rushed society, sometimes we are forced back into normal life far more quickly than we’re ready–especially during the holidays. If you’re experiencing holiday grief or know someone who is, it’s important to recognize that things are going to be different this year–and that’s okay. Patience and understanding go a long way to helping someone through this difficult process. Communication is an important factor. If you’re feeling guilty about not wanting to celebrate or not having your usual holiday spirit, share your thoughts with your loved ones. You’re sure to find the support that you need during this time and may even come up with new family traditions to help you through this season.
Here are ten tips to help get through the holiday season if you’re feeling grief due to the loss of a loved one:
- Understand the grief you’re feeling is part of your healing process. Experiencing the pain of loss instead of avoiding it can help you feel better in the long run. It may be tempting to pretend the holidays aren’t happening, or to dull your pain with alcohol or other means, but that only prolongs the pain. The holidays will get easier with time, but you have to go through the process.
- It’s okay to set boundaries. Just because Aunt Sue expects you at her holiday party doesn’t mean it’s mandatory that you go. Be willing to say no to what you really just can’t handle this year. You do not have to please everyone.
- Know what you can control. There’s a lot about our lives that we can’t control. You can’t control the Christmas carols in the stores or other people talking about holiday plans. But there are things in your environment you can control. What do you need to do to lessen the feelings of grief? If you don’t want to decorate, don’t. If you can’t handle holiday shopping in stores, shop online. Just remember, life is still going on around you and it’s okay that other people ARE celebrating the holidays around you.
- Plan Ahead. Create a plan for getting through the holiday. It’s okay to make an escape plan for when things are too much. Drive yourself to events so you can leave when you need to.
- Allow yourself to feel. The holidays will bring a variety of emotions to the surface–and usually all within a few minutes. It’s normal to feel happy, sad, and guilty all at the same time. Don’t judge yourself or be too hard on yourself. It’s okay to feel happiness at this time of year, despite your loss. And it’s okay to feel sad as well.
- Honor your losses. Memorialize the person you’ve lost if you feel that’s appropriate. You can light a candle, prepare a favorite meal, or watch a favorite holiday movie. This can be a reminder that, although you’ve lost someone special, your love for them never dies.
- Do something kind for someone else. When you’re grieving, you still have gifts to offer others. Random acts of kindness do wonderful things for a heart that is hurting from loss. Making someone else feel loved during the holidays is a great way to honor the memory of your loved one. Donate a gift, serve meals in a soup kitchen, or simply pay for the person in line behind you. These things can do your heart a world of good.
- Ask for help. If you’re struggling, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Your loved ones are there to support you. If you need even more help, reach out for it. Deal with your grief in a healthy manner.
- Maintain healthy habits. You need to take care of yourself to support your body’s healing. It might be a struggle just to get out of bed but do the best you can. Take a short walk or sit in the sun for a few minutes. Make healthy food choices and keep hydrated. Keep a journal if it helps you process your emotions.
- Reduce your stress and sleep. Staying as stress-free as possible and making sure you’re getting enough good quality sleep go a long way in making you feel mentally prepared for coping with grief during the holidays. The BrainTap Pro App audio series 8 Steps to Coping with Grief can be a great way to help you through this difficult time. Listening to a guided visualization audio session can help you relax and release stress, and our users report that they fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer with the use of the BrainTap.