Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Dealing With Grief During the Holiday Season

Birthdays, anniversary, and holidays can be a painful reminder that your loved one isn't around anymore to celebrate with you. In our culture we expect to spend the holidays with loved ones, and the fact that a loved one isn't here anymore can be hard to cope with. Traditions that involved them can leave you not wanting to participate at all. Every one grieves differently, and people want different things when it comes to dealing with loss. We have rounded up some of the best advice on how to deal with grief during the holiday season to hopefully make the transition a little smoother.

1. Rather than avoiding the feelings of grief, lean into them. It is not the grief you want to avoid, it is the pain. Grief is the way out of the pain. Grief is our internal feelings and mourning is our external expressions.

2. Have a Plan A/Plan B – Plan A is you go to the Thanksgiving, Christmas Day or Christmas Eve dinner with family and friends. If it doesn’t feel right, have your plan B ready. Plan B may be a movie you both liked or a photo album to look through or a special place you went to together. Many people find that when they have Plan B in place, just knowing it is there is enough.

3. Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Share your plans with family and friends and let them know of any intended changes in holiday routine. Memories can sometimes be a source of comfort to the bereaved. Share your memories with others of holidays spent with your loved one by telling stories and looking at photo albums.

4. GIVE! It's amazing how in times of grief, sometimes the biggest comfort is to give to others.You might purchase something that symbolizes the person or time before your loss and donate it to a needy family. Or make a donation in a loved one's name to a charity or cause he or she cherished.

5. Make a new tradition to remember your loved one. Making a conscious decision to spend some part of the day talking about this person will enable others to feel like they have permission to talk about him or her, too. For example, you could hang a stocking in honor of the person you lost. Throughout the evening, family and friends fill the stocking with items that serve as talking points for memories It's a wonderful tradition that can generates conversation in a comfortable way.

6. Do something different. Acknowledge that things have changed; indeed, the holiday will not be the same as it was ever again. Accepting this will help manage expectations. Plan new activities, especially the first year after the loss. Go to a new location for family celebrations, change the menu or go out to eat, volunteer, invite friends over, attend the theater, travel … create new memories. Many families return to their usual routines and rituals after the first year, but some enjoy incorporating their new experiences permanently.

7. Skip it. If you feel that it will be too much for you and you'd like to simply opt out of participation in a holiday, let family and friends know. But plan alternative comforting activities for yourself and let someone know what you will be doing. It's a good idea to make sure someone checks in with you on that day.

8. Finding a supportive network can be very helpful. Seeking out others who will possibly better understand your feelings may help you feel less alone over the holidays. Grief groups are free to join and attend. Start here to find one in your area. You can also call a nearby hospice: The employees will be able to direct you to nearby support groups and holiday focused programs.  

sources here, here, and here.

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