For some people, the holidays bring a spike in renewed memories and grief regarding the loss of a loved one. During a season so focused on being around family and friends, those who cannot celebrate with everyone due to death may feel intense emotions and grief.
How can I cope with grief during the holidays?
If you have experienced the loss of a loved one, either recently or in years past, the holidays may be a difficult time to get through. If this is the case, there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. Grief tends to come up when triggering incidents (including the holidays) occur.
In order to persevere and take care of yourself during this time, there are some healthy coping mechanisms and techniques you can implement to both appropriately mourn the loss and prevent it from stopping you from entering into the joy of the holiday season.
1. Let yourself feel the emotions
It sounds counterintuitive to not keep your emotions in check, but it’s necessary to give yourself permission to feel. The sorrow is there, yes, but so is happiness. Allow yourself to experience a range of emotions during this time and don’t be afraid to remember how things used to be. It’s all part of the healing process.
Experiencing grief and allowing yourself to remember your loved one is what healing is all about. You’ve heard that time heals wounds, but the truth is that feeling heartache can help you recover more than time ever could. Emotions, even the bad ones, help you reconcile with what happened and keep you moving forward.
2. Set boundaries
It’s tempting to hide away and become a recluse as a way of coping with grief and loss during the holidays, but setting boundaries may be a better option. Let your family and friends know you are grieving and ask for space when you need to.
There may be traditions you used to do but feel you can’t face right now, so be willing to speak up and offer alternatives or come up with compromises with your family. And if you truly cannot face an event, communicate that — your family will be more understanding and supportive if you let them know where you are coming from and what you are going through instead of just not showing up.
3. Control what you can; let go of the rest
Some things about the holiday season are out of your control, such as decorations around town or shops playing Christmas music. When you’re at home, however, you can completely control your environment. This can be a way of coping with grief and loss during the holidays. If you feel you can’t face certain traditions or events, it’s okay to skip them this year. Focus on the things you can control and don’t worry about the others.
This may be difficult if you are living with others who aren’t facing a loss. It’s important to have an honest conversation with your roommates, partner or children, and explain what you need to help you cope during this difficult time. And maybe simply talking about what you’re feeling can make a world of difference.
4. Seek out help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, especially during the holiday season, or any time when you feel grief more intensely. Whether you turn to family and friends or a licensed therapist, speaking with someone can help you process your emotions and find healthy ways to cope.
Working with a professional can be especially helpful as counselors are specially trained to help you process grief and other difficult emotions. They can teach you coping skills and offer an unbiased perspective on navigating difficult situations with family and friends, including how to navigate holiday traditions.
5. Remember your healing matters
Grieving takes time, and the grieving process might continue throughout the holidays — just because it’s Christmas doesn’t mean all negative emotions magically float away. Be gentle with yourself during this time, do what you can handle and let go of the rest, including the opinions of others. Prioritize your healing, and don’t be ashamed of your emotions.
Where to seek help during the holidays
If you feel you might benefit from having someone to help you through the grieving process, reach out to The Light Program to see what type of counseling will benefit you. Call us today at (610) 644-6464 or contact us on our website to learn more.