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Dealing With Grief During the Holidays

Dealing With Grief During the Holidays

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 are some 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 okay that 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 you should be happy or you shouldn't be laughing.

6. Find a Way to Honor Your Memories.

Create a special way to honor the 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 one 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.