Coping with grief: How to deal during the holidays

The holiday season is stressful enough for all of us, but can be especially unbearable for those dealing with the grief of loss. How can you deal with that grief and make it through the holidays?

Christmas Grief


What should be a time of happiness and cheer may, instead, be a time of stress, loneliness and fear for someone who is grieving. Holidays only magnify the feelings of grief. Sounds and sights of the holiday season are everywhere you turn: the sound of Christmas carols, department store ads and greeting cards in the mail. For many, these triggers are constant reminders of a void in their lives and emptiness in their hearts.


Kinds of loss that bring grief

• loss of a loved one who has passed away
• loss of a pet
• loss of health (diagnosis of an illness in self or a loved one)
• loss of job or career
• loss of a relationship (divorce, move, etc)
• loss of dreams for the future

Grief affects us physically, emotionally and mentally.

Normal reactions to grief may include…
• sadness
• depression
• anger
• crying
• shortness of breath
• confusion
• anxiety
• inability to concentrate
• difficulty sleeping
• over eating or over drinking

Whatever the reason for grief, it’s important to remember you’re not alone. There are many others who are going through or have gone through the same experience. What you’re feeling is only natural and it’s unhealthy to try to block these emotions. As much as we’d like, there is no instant cure for the pain of grief. There are, however, ways to help get through the holiday season.


Some positive ways to cope with grief during the holidays are…

• Give yourself permission to cry and to feel what you are feeling. There’s no reason to hide from your emotions,
• Don’t isolate yourself. Surround yourself, instead, with those who understand and are supportive.
• Don’t feel guilty for not wanting to follow old habits and traditions. It’s OK to put aside traditions for one year, or even start new ones.
• Find a support group of others in the same situation. Being with people “in the same boat” helps to take away the feeling of aloneness.
• Make time for yourself. Don’t be over-burdened with work. Find free time to energize yourself by taking a hike or going on an outing with a friend.
• Take care of yourself and treat yourself well. Consider a pampering day at the spa if your budget permits.
• Use journaling as an outlet for what you are feeling.
• Find opportunities for volunteer work that might help you focus your energy outward. Spending your time this way might help create some good feelings for you inward.
• Be ready to say, “No thank you,” to events or gatherings that might be push your emotional buttons. Others will understand and give you the space you need.
• Perhaps this season might be a good time to visit the out-of-town friend who has been inviting you for years.
• Know that it’s OK to seek the help of a counselor. These professionals are trained to guide you through your tough times.

“This too shall pass,” is a phrase from an old Jewish folktale that very much applies to what you’re feeling today. The grief may take a long time, if ever, to pass but you know this holiday season will soon be behind you. Love and care for yourself and remember…This too shall pass.


Related articles:

Books to help in dealing with grief and loss
Five stages of relationship grief
How to talk to your kids about death 
Five roadblocks to facing emotional pain and how to work though them
How to support someone fighting breast cancer
Top 12 ways to beat holiday stress 


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