The holidays can be a time to get together with family and friends, celebrate, and reflect on the past and future. It’s important to remember, however, that not everyone enjoys the holidays. Holidays can bring up painful memories of trauma and loss, reminders of relationship breakups, and feelings of loneliness. I have often struggled with holidays for many reasons. This year is especially difficult due to the death of my father in October. I try to focus on the happy times we had with him at Christmas, but I still have occasional bouts of sadness. I also think of my friend who will experience her first holiday season without her son who recently died by suicide.
There are plenty of thoughts that can load us down and keep us from fully participating in holiday festivities.
To get through this challenging time, I am sharing some tips to deal with grief over the holidays:
Don’t try to resist the grief and your emotions. Your grief will come and go throughout the holidays, and all of your feelings are valid. Please don’t judge your feelings, and don’t try to stop them.
For some, writing down the various emotions you may feel during the holidays makes the emotions that show up more manageable.
Acknowledge that the holidays will be hard, and if you don’t feel like going to other people’s homes, don’t.
Take care of yourself and take naps as needed, as the lack of sleep may worsen the sadness. Also, exercise, drink and eat healthily.
You may not have the energy to complete tasks, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Help someone else. Giving back often helps with grief.
Honor your loved one by recognizing them through the holidays. Make a tradition of it. Acknowledging the loss can prevent guilty feelings of moving on without the person.
Start new traditions, but remember to honor old traditions and memories.
Surround yourself with people who love you and support your grief.
Choose to opt out of the holidays. It’s ok.
Limit your in-store shopping as the decorations and music may trigger your grief.
Change your scenery as new adventures will make you think about how to engage in an unfamiliar situation and not on the grief.
Make a plan for the holidays and a backup plan in case you are not up to the first one.
Be aware of your alcohol intake. Alcohol is a depressant.
Finally, seek out a therapist or attend a support group if it gets to be too much.
I hope these tips help if you're struggling with the holidays. I know I will be using some of them.