If you’ve experienced the loss of a loved one, the holiday season can be a challenging time. As we watch others experience joy, togetherness, and celebration, memories of our loved ones can remind us of loss and even lead to a sense of dread, a desire to isolate oneself, and feelings of emptiness or loneliness. As difficult as it seems, we can survive the holidays with planning and support. Here are some tips to get through the season.
1. Acknowledge your emotions. Grieving is an individual process. There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and there is no set amount of time for one to experience grief. Time and distance may reduce the intensity of one’s feelings, but recognize that certain events, or even smells or sounds, may trigger an emotional response.
2. Stay engaged. Oftentimes the anticipation of holidays is more stressful than experiencing the holiday itself. Although it’s tempting to “cancel” the holidays, resist the urge to totally withdraw. Allow yourself some alone time and refrain from attending activities that are uncomfortable, but don’t “hide” until the new year. Instead, surround yourself with friends and family who you can lean on for comfort and support, and plan to attend some activities or events with them.
3. Stay in balance. Try to be realistic in evaluating what you can accomplish, and don’t overcommit or overdo it. You don’t need to keep up the appearances of everything being alright. Keep your activities in check despite the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
4. Take care of yourself. Physical exercise, journaling, and meditation can be good outlets. Don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself, particularly if you are or have been a caregiver. Remember that self-medicating with alcohol or other substances is never a substitute for self-care. And don’t be afraid to seek professional assistance. There is no shame in asking for help.
5. Create new holiday rituals and traditions. Although some find comfort in the familiar, some find it very painful. Discuss with your family and friends what traditions or rituals to keep and what new traditions to establish that will accommodate your current situation while still honoring the memories of your loved ones.