For many of my patients, the holidays are not a joyous time of year. Instead, it brings an overwhelming sense of loss. Triggers hit hard when memories of those we’ve lost come rushing back.
Grief is complicated. We want to feel excited and happy preparing for family gatherings, shopping for gifts and baking those traditional holiday dishes. But what we are faced with are constant reminders of those missing. There is a painful emptiness that we stuff down and pretend isn’t there. An emptiness so deep that only those who have gone through the death of a loved one fully understand what it feels like.
You are not alone.
The globe lost 6 million lives to COVID in the last few years. Their families and friends are grieving. Even if your loss happened 10 years ago, it can feel like yesterday. I don’t believe grief ever really goes away….we simply understand it better and learn how to cope with it.
There is hope.
Although totally removing our feelings of loss is not possible; there are ways we can help reduce some of that internal conflict and even make our experiences enjoyable.
1. Honor their memories
A helpful way to keep your loved one’s memory present is to continue practicing holiday traditions. You can also find ways to honor those who are no longer here by dedicating time to remember and celebrate them.
- Light a candle for your loved one.
- Post a funny story or share your favorite memory of them on social media.
- Frame your favorite photo of your loved one.
- Continue a holiday tradition that your loved one led or organized.
2. Allow yourself to feel all the feels
Laugh and embrace joy when it comes. Grieve and mourn when those feelings arise. It is important to acknowledge all of your feelings and to not avoid them. I know it’s difficult and painful. Developing healthy coping skills can help walk us through these moments:
- Go for a walk
- Start or continue journaling
- Deep breathing
- Practice yoga/meditation
- Speak positive affirmations to yourself
3. Plan ahead
Planning ahead can help avoid unexpected sorrow. Are there any holiday roles that have now been vacated by loss? Consider who might fill those empty spaces before the moment arises.
“Often, the anticipation over how hard something is going to be is worse than the actual event. So while that 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. Drive yourself to holiday functions or ride with a trusted friend who will take you home whenever you want. Just knowing you can easily leave at any time can help you enjoy the activity much more than you would if you felt stuck.”Psychology Today
Focusing on doing something to help another can lift a grieving spirit. There is a comfort that comes from doing good to others. Even in the midst of pain and grief, we can:
- Deliver a holiday meal to a family in need.
- Help a neighbor with yard work or holiday decorations.
- Invite a guest to holiday dinner that might otherwise spend it alone.
- Support another who is also grieving a loss.
5. Ask for Help
Be intentional during this time of year to surround yourself with friends, family, and coworkers who love and support you. Reminding loved ones that this time is difficult and sharing your holiday plans with them can help. It can also be extremely valuable to navigate these triggered waters with a professional therapist.
If you are struggling right now, let’s talk. You can book an in-person or virtual visit. Together, we will navigate the pressures, demands and triggers of the holidays.
Interested in more? I would love to meet to you! Email or call anytime to schedule an in-person or virtual session. (817) 701-5438 | email@example.com
CRT, CCDC, CACC | Counselor & Life Coach
Empowering individuals, families and communities to grow and heal through advanced approaches in Creative Arts Therapy, setting the standard for treatment, practice and training within the field.