When Grief Comes Home During the Holidays, How Do You Manage?

January 3, 2013 by  
Filed under Events, Relationships

Grief during the holiday season beginning with Thanksgiving and going through Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year is a stressful time for all people, but particularly for those going through the seasons of grief after the loss of a loved one.

The holidays bring back memories of past holidays and hold much in the way of joyful and sorrowful feelings. Those who have lost a loved one fantasize that everyone else is surrounded by family and friends and is having a wonderful time, while they are feeling alone and miserable. This fantasy keeps them from creating their own plans or asking others to spend time with them in ways that will be helpful to them.


Ways to Cope with Grief Individually at the Holidays

Individuals who are bereaved may also need to be extra gentle with themselves during the holidays. The following are some suggestions:

  • When others offer help, accept it. The holidays are a draining time of year for most people and those who are grieving are already short on energy.
  • Think about your belief system. Is now the time to strengthen your ties to your religious community? Loosen your ties? Or perhaps change your beliefs so some extent to fit with any new lessons you may have learned from your grief.
  • Take care of yourself. Avoid overindulgence in alcohol, tobacco, caffeine and sweets. Grief takes its toll on one physically, as well as emotionally. Try to avoid further stressing the body by eating nutritious food.
  • Do something special for yourself. Buy yourself a gift in memory of your loved one, perhaps something you think they would want you to have. Pay someone to clean your house. Get a massage. See a good movie.
  • Allow yourself time to cry.
  • Allow yourself to be alone when you would like to be. Many people who grieve feel guilty about wanting to “cocoon” during the holidays, but it may be seen as a natural way of helping us slow down when grief is taking its toll on us.
  • Decide with whom to spend your time. Spend time with those people who are able to be supportive. Decrease the amount of time spent with unsupportive friends and family.

Accept your grief in this holiday season, do not try to “pretend” it away. This will not be helpful to you or others. The seasons of grief only pass as we live through them and change and grow in them. To resist your grief is to prolong it. Growth can come only through your grief. Your life is different: learning how to cope with this difference constructively is the task for you as a griever both during and after the holidays.

Try not to put so much pressure on yourself to get everything done. If you do not feel like shopping or sending greeting cards or baking or cooking, then admit this to yourself and to family and friends. Find new ways of celebrating this year. You don’t have to live up to others’ or your own expectations. Ask for help in addressing those cards or putting up that tree if that’s what you want, or need. Allowing yourself these feelings and expressing them may be what you need, rather than the added stress and strain of accomplishing a whole list of items. Give yourself the time and space to feel and experience your loss while also sharing it with family and friends as much as possible.


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