People often seek help for the immense sorrow that starts surfacing right
around the holiday season. Music, parties, and festive decorations that
are meant to bring joy, serve as painful reminders of loss or stress.
If you're wondering how to get through the holidays this year without
your loved one, these strategies can help:
1. Trust that Grief is Part of Healing.
Grief is the process by which you heal. Experiencing the pain, rather than
trying to escape it, can actually help you feel better in the long-term.
While it may be tempting to pretend the holidays don't exist, find
ways to numb the pain temporarily; avoiding the pain only prolongs the
anguish. Eventually, the holidays will get easier, but only if you allow
yourself to experience the grief of going through them without your loved one.
2. Set Healthy Boundaries.
You don't have to force yourself to face every holiday event. If attending
a tree lighting ceremony or participating in the office gift swap will
create too many painful memories, allow yourself to decline.
3. Focus on What You Can Control.
There are a lot of things you can't control about the holidays, such
as Christmas music in restaurants and the mall, or co-workers and friends
talking about their holiday plans. While you can't prevent those things
from happening, there aresome things you can control. Think about what
you can do to lessen the heartache when you can. It’s okay to limit
your decorations or only shop for presents online. Pick a few things you
can do to assert some control over the holiday cheer and keep in mind,
that life goes on for other people and it’s okaythat they celebrate.
4. Plan Ahead.
The anticipation over how hard something is going to be is worse than the
actual event. A holiday dinner may only last two hours, you could easily
spend three weeks dreading it. Create a simple plan for how you'll
get through the holidays to avoid extending your anguish. Create an escape
plan by driving yourself to holiday functions or ride with a trusted friend
who will take you home whenever you want. Knowing you can easily leave
at any time can help you enjoy the activity much more than if you felt stuck.
5. Allow Yourself to Feel a Range of Emotions.
The holidays can bring about a wide range of emotions. You might feel joy,
guilt, and sadness all within a few minutes. Allow yourself to feel those
emotions without judging yourself or thinking youshould be happyor youshouldn't
6. Find a Way to Honor Your Memories.
Create a special way to honorthe person you've lost. Whether you decide
to light a candle every night or eat your loved one's favorite food,
honoring your loved one can serve as a tangible reminder that although
your loved on is gone, the love never dies.
7. Create New Traditions.
Don't be afraid to create new traditions. It’s okay to get creative
and do something a little out of the ordinary. You can also alter old
traditions and make them fit better with the new phase in your life.
8. Do Something Kind for Others.
Even when you're in the midst of grief, you still have something to
offer the world. Performing a few acts of kindness can be really good
for the grieving spirit. Donate gifts to families in need, serve meals
at a soup kitchen, or volunteer at a nursing home helping make holiday crafts.
9. Ask for Help.
Don't be afraid to ask for help when you're struggling with the
holidays. Look for support groups or contact a professional counselor
to help you deal with your grief in a healthy manner.
griefsupport.mwhc.com for more information on Mary Washington Grief Support Services.