Tips to Handle Grief During the Holidays
Holidays. Family. Togetherness. Love. Words like these are woven closely together this time of year, aren’t they? Reminders are everywhere– TV and radio, social media, work, church … that it’s truly THAT time of year. A time when many of us prioritize our time just a bit differently so that we can be with family members and friends, loved ones – near or far – in some way.
So what happens when the time we are taking to be with others is different this year – different because someone who is loved or longed for is not here this holiday season. The emotional impact of navigating this time of year in the face of loss and grief can feel pretty overwhelming for many of us. There is often an unspoken question in the hearts of anyone who is grieving, “How on earth am I going to get through the holidays?” It’s a big question and not always easy to answer. And there are different kinds of losses too – it could be the loss of a family member or friend, or a pet. Other kinds of losses and grieving can include things like a recent divorce or the loss of a job. Even though grieving is hard any time of the year, it’s particularly difficult at the holidays.
There are Many Ways to Handle Grief
Not only are there different kinds of losses, but there are different ways to grieve those losses. Here are a few ways to consider being extra compassionate to yourself:
- Acknowledge how you feel. You might be sad, lonely, or angry – any number of feelings can occur. Sometimes you might not be sure how you feel. That’s okay too. Just being aware of the feeling or the confusion about how you feel is much better than ignoring your feelings all together.
- Take action. It doesn’t have to be anything major. It can be as simple as journaling your feelings, lighting a candle at church, saying a silent prayer, meditating, coloring, drawing or even visiting with a therapist.
- Seek a balance between being with others and spending time on your own. Both are necessary for optimal health, but too much of one or the other creates an imbalance. Being around others, connecting, making conversation, and joining in are great – just make sure you’re carving out some time for quiet and relaxation. If you find you’re spending too much time alone, call a friend, or maybe meet them for coffee; consider joining a support group or Bible study.
- And speaking of relaxation, let’s not forget about sleep. I know we bring this up a lot, but it’s a really important part of getting healthy, staying healthy, and managing the stressors of daily life. It becomes even more important when there are additional situations, such as mourning the loss of a loved one. Some experts recommend adults getting between seven and nine hours of sleep on a regular basis. When dealing with grieving and loss, sleep can get out of balance – either too much or too little. If you find you can’t sleep or maybe you’re sleeping too much, talk with your primary care provider.
- Eat something. When experiencing a significant loss, grieving can have an impact on our appetite and natural cues for hunger. We need food for our bodies and our brains to function optimally. A bite or two of something is better than nothing at all; and if it’s slightly nutritious, even better!
Handling Your Grief and Taking Care of Yourself is Important
I know these are only a few suggestions and everyone’s situation is unique. Maybe there’s an idea or two above that you can tweak a bit for your own use. Bottom line, if you’ve lost someone or something important to you, it’s going to take time. I know we’re expected to get back to work, to take care of our kids, and on top of all that, prepare for holiday gifting and gatherings. You taking care of you is very important, especially if you lost someone or something very dear.
Karen Williams, LIMHP is a Mental Health provider at CHI Health.