Navigating Grief During the Holidays
Grief is complicated and unique for everyone. While accepting loss can become easier with time, it is something that we carry with us forever. Grief can hit us at any time, often unexpectedly, and it can be very challenging to be in pain while there is so much joy around you. Here are seven tips to help you navigate your grief during the holidays.
- Set realistic expectations for yourself. Remind yourself that this year will be different. Decide if you can handle the tasks and events of celebrating. Accept help from others – to cook, to decorate, to shop, etc. If you want to avoid crowds or memories, shop online this year.
- Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Share your plans with family and friends and let them know about changes in holiday routines. If you find comfort in memories, share stories with your family and friends or look through photos together.
- Despite the temptation, try not to “cancel” the holiday. It is okay to avoid some circumstances that you don’t feel ready to handle but try not to isolate yourself. Make time for solitude, remembering, and grieving, but balance it with planned social activities.
- Allow yourself to feel joy, sadness, anger, etc. – allow yourself to grieve. It is important to recognize that everyone has his/her own unique grief experience. No one way is right or wrong. Experiencing joy and laughter during a time of grief does not mean you have forgotten your loved one.
- Take comfort in helping others. Consider donating in memory of your loved one. Make plans with someone who might otherwise be alone for the holidays. Adopt a family in need during the holiday season.
- Take care of yourself. Physical exercise is often an antidote for depression. Writing in a journal can be a good outlet for your grief. Give yourself permission to buy something that you really want. Avoid using alcohol to self-medicate your mood.
- Create a new tradition that accommodates your current situation. Some people find comfort in honoring traditions while others find traditions unbearable. Discuss with your family the activities you want to include or exclude this year.
The holiday season is not always as merry as we want it to be. It is normal to feel uneasy, and you are not alone in feeling that way. There is no right or wrong way to approach the holiday season following the loss of a loved one. The best coping mechanism for the holiday season is to plan ahead, get support from others, and take it one holiday party and one feeling at a time. For more information, visit www.PennFoundation.org.