Coping With Grief

For many, the holiday season is filled with cheer and thanksgiving. It is a time to reflect on how good life has been, and to spend time with beloved family members or friends. For some, however, the holiday season can be a challenging time. Maybe a loved one passed away recently or years ago. When someone has played an integral part of your life’s journey, and their physical presence is gone, this can be a devastating loss. 

Grief is a process. The recovery time and the road to healing are different for everyone. As the holiday season approaches, here are a few tips to help manage grief.

  • Take time to heal. Don’t feel pressured to “get over it” or “move on.” Let your road to recovery take as long as it needs to. Grieving the loss of a loved one is part of the process. Allow yourself time to feel the pain of the loss. Trying to ignore or escape the pain is not an effective coping skill. It’s all right to be sad and cry. The most important thing to remember is don’t become stuck in this phase. At some point, you will need to begin taking steps to move forward.
  • Don’t be afraid to experience different emotions. There will be ups and downs. Although you may be grieving, allow yourself to feel the joy of the holiday season as well. Happiness and excitement are common during this time of the year. Don’t focus so much on the grief that you forget to allow yourself to experience the magical moments the holiday season has to offer.
  • Don’t isolate yourself. While time alone and setting healthy boundaries can be a good thing in terms of processing your emotions, too much time alone can make symptoms of depression worse. 
  • Say yes to what you feel like you can handle. Say yes to the dinner, say yes to the Christmas party, and say yes to spending time with those who want to shower you with love this holiday season. You don’t have to stay the entire time if you go out, and you don’t have to accept every invitation. Take baby steps if you need to. Set a small goal of going to one party for as long as you feel comfortable. From there, you can work your way up to doing more. By gradually increasing your socialization, this moves you in the direction of establishing a new normal. Don’t feel guilty for enjoying life. Most individuals, I counsel, say that their loved ones would want them to be happy. Allow yourself to feel the joy and overflow of love this holiday season whenever it is present.
  • Plan ahead. Take time to think about what it is you would like to do and where you would like to go. If you attend a party and may want to leave early, consider driving so that you can leave when you need to. You can also choose not to attend any activities that may be too difficult for you at this point.
  • Find a way to honor your loved ones.  Find a way to remember your loved ones fondly. Frame your favorite photo, or burn a candle in their honor. Cooking their favorite meal or keeping one of their favorite holiday traditions alive is a great way to honor a loved one. Consider making a holiday stocking, ornament, or another expression of love. There is no right or wrong way to do this. As long as it comes from the heart, you can’t go wrong.
  • Create new memories. Do something you’ve always wanted to do with your family or friends during the holiday season. A few things to get you started could include decorating a Christmas tree, baking, cooking, making gingerbread houses, a sleepover, hosting a game night, or doing fun activities with the younger kids in your family.
  • Help someone else in need. Many people are alone during the holidays and would love to have company. Volunteering is a great way to help others. There are many churches, shelters, and assisted living facilities in need of helping hands during this time of the year. Great joy can be found in making someone else’s day brighter.
  • Seek professional help when needed. If you feel as if your grief can’t be managed, don’t be afraid to seek help. If individual therapy is not of interest to you, join a local support group. Reach out if need be. Don’t suffer in silence this holiday season.