Coping with grief and loss during the holiday season is no easy feat.
I know, I’ve been there. Now that the holidays are upon us, I wanted to address this important issue. We’re in a time of year when there can be extra pressure to feel a certain way. It’s already hard enough to grieve in today’s society, let alone during a season that we’re told should be filled with “joy” and “cheer.”
When you are deeply hurting, these are the last feelings in your heart and it can be incredibly painful and isolating. However, time continues moving forward, and the holidays come, no matter what events are happening in our personal lives.
First, I want you to know that you are not alone.
Communicate with your loved ones about your feelings.
- Honor where you are at.
- Switch up your traditions or start some new ones.
- Do something meaningful and special for YOU (treat yourself!).
- Take it slow and breathe.
Even when it seems that the rest of the world is celebrating and exchanging pleasantries, there are still tons of people who are hurting, grieving, and dreading the holidays. They are usually either keeping to themselves, pretending that they’re okay, or busy attending therapy or support groups. If you are in a place of deep grief, I encourage you not to isolate yourself too much. Alone time can be healthy to a certain extent, but if you are completely removing yourself from friends and family, I encourage you to reach for some support. Find a support group with others who are struggling with a similar loss or experience, attend a therapy session, or reach out to someone you trust.
When I was going through my first holidays after my late husband died, I made it very clear to my family that I would be present for things like dinner and gift opening, but if I needed to excuse myself for a while and just stare out a window (or go cry in a closet) that I needed them to respect those moments. You can also ask that certain conversation be limited to neutral topics or request that your loss be openly acknowledged and held in an honorable way as you spend time together. Let your people know what you need if they don’t know what to do. Sometimes, this can help you in feeling more supported.
You have permission to not force yourself to feel a certain way. Allow your grief to show you what you need. If you need to cry, then let the tears flow. If you feel that you need to talk in depth about your loss and want to feel comforted, find a safe person and environment that will hold you through this time. Don’t worry too much about pleasing those around you. You are likely dealing with a lot of sadness and anger, and it is not wrong to be having those feelings as you navigate your journey. Know that it is okay to feel your grief and move through this time gently.
If you usually decorate or attend parties this time of year but don’t have the energy to, then decide to let go of the usual expectations you might have for yourself. Make things easier and simplify. If you have others counting on you in this area, such as young children, then ask an adult friend or family member for help. Or, you can adopt some simple new traditions, such as lighting a memorial candle, and decide that things will just be different this year because you need time to grieve. This is perfectly okay! Know that your holiday may look different on the outside this year because you are feeling different inside. Eventually, the grief will not be so heavy and you might feel up to re-engaging in holiday activities. But for now, go easy on yourself.
Since this is the season of giving, don’t forget to give some love to yourself as well! Do something that will really nurture you. For example, this time of year there are great online creative courses available to help you through your grief. Here is a course called, Hope for the Holidays that is currently happening online at Brave Girls Club. They also have a few other grief processing courses that are great for soothing your soul and bringing out some creativity. If you enjoy reading, I invite you to check out my book Creative Grieving: A Hip Chick’s Path from Loss to Hope, where I share the story of my own grief journey. There is even a chapter devoted to surviving the holidays. I also highly recommend Gabrielle Bernstein’s new book, The Universe Has Your Back. She offers many practical tools and exercises that allow you to release old blocks, deepen your healing process, and move from away from fear.
Also, consider indulging in an aromatherapy epsom salt bath or treating yourself to a new piece of jewelry that holds special symbolism for you. I recently bought a ring in the shape of a heart that reminds me to continue bringing love to myself no matter what. Enjoy some peppermint hot chocolate, or give yourself the gift of more sleep. Go get a 60-minute massage or Reiki treatment. Try out a new meditation that will bring you some comfort and grounding. I recommend the Self-Care for Busy People Meditation Album by Kris Carr. These things may all seem small, but they can add up to be essential pieces of your healing process over time.
Remember, the grieving process is not a race. Your personal journey will unfold in it’s own time. Be with the process and allow it to teach you. At times when it gets too heavy, allow yourself room to breathe and do things that comfort you, support you, make you laugh, and feed your soul. Oftentimes, the anticipation of the holiday season is worse than the actual holiday itself. Know that this moment in time, and the holidays, will pass and that small baby steps and self-compassion will keep you moving forward towards greater healing.