Taking Care This Holiday Season

Moving into the holiday season can bring up a myriad of feelings, especially if you are grieving. Gathering with family and friends may bring a sense of comfort, yet also can be emotionally charged if one of your loved ones will be missing from the table this year, or if you are moving through a season of change in your life. If you are anxious or even dreading this season, I wanted to share a few tips to help support you through this time.

It’s always important to be authentic with your feelings, so if you don’t feel like you’ll be up for certain festivities or gatherings this year, I suggest finding ways to support this truth. This could mean shifting plans or shortening visits. Look for any small way to relieve pressure on yourself. Even if you have others depending on you, do your best to be honest about where you’re at emotionally, and that you may need to change plans this year. Be willing to be flexible and remember that just because things might look different right now doesn’t mean that next year will be the same. Releasing expectations for yourself and others can relieve unnecessary stress and be supportive for your healing. 

Set some healthy boundaries for yourself. If you know there are social situations that may be hard, think of what would most support your needs. For instance, the first Thanksgiving after my late husband died I requested that my family stick to “light” dinner conversation and avoid specific topics because I was feeling extremely raw and vulnerable. Thankfully they honored my request and I was able to be peacefully present for the meal, even though it was still an emotionally heavy day. 

Creating new rituals or traditions around your holiday may open up new ways to acknowledge where you’re at on your grief journey. For example, if you have a loved one who died, you may wish to still set a place at the table to honor their memory and bring their presence into the space. Another beautiful way to honor a loved one if you’re having a holiday gathering or dinner is for each person to speak some words of gratitude regarding the deceased family member or friend when you all come together. 

I also encourage you to keep parts of your routine that help you feel connected to yourself. Often the holidays involve travel or changes in schedules and patterns that usually help us feel grounded. It may also mean more social time than you’re typically used to, which can especially be exhausting. One the best ways I stay connected with myself is through movement. If you feel anxiety or overwhelm setting in, it can be helpful to go for a walk or stretch, or engage in whatever type of physical movement resonates for you. It can allow you time to decompress and also take some space for yourself to not have to be “on.” 

Last but not least, be gentle with yourself, especially if things turn out different than you anticipated. If you end up shedding tears and feel sad or find that you were able to embrace some joy and happiness, both experiences are completely valid and okay! Give yourself permission to feel whatever comes up. It is perfectly natural to feel a wide range of emotions. Allow your heart to be where it’s at. 

Wishing you deep comfort, support, and kindness this holiday.