The holiday season can bring a special type of joy and magic that so many of us look forward to every year. For those who have lost a loved one, it can be one of the hardest times of the year.
There are ways to enjoy the holiday season while honoring the very real grief and pain increased by missing those who are no longer with us to physically celebrate the holiday. Below are five tips to help cope with grief during the holidays.
Attend holiday gatherings, but not too many . . .
There may be pressure to attend holiday parties and family gatherings during this time. For your own mental health and wellbeing, it is important to set boundaries and plan ahead to ensure you're engaging in holiday events but not overwhelming yourself with grief triggers.
It perfectly is ok to only attend those events you are truly comfortable with or limit the time you stay at these type of events. Just because you show up, doesn't mean you have to stay the whole time or engage the way you would have in previous years. Find a balance between self isolating and engaging during this season.
Expect the Waves of Grief to Come and to Hit Harder
One of the most important things to get through the holiday season when grieving is to know and prepare for your grief triggers during the holidays. Grief triggers are anything that sharply remind you of your lost loved one. Holiday grief triggers can include holiday songs, locations, types of decoration, certain foods, or traditions.
It is important to know your grief triggers so that you will not be caught off guard by them. Once you know your most prominent holiday grief triggers, try your best not to avoid them all together. Instead, plan how to expose yourself and engage with these triggers in a way that is not overwhelming. As grief evolves over time, these triggers will loose their sting and can become a positive reminder of your loved one and spark happy memories. Remember that you can miss your loved one and enjoy the holiday at the same time. Acknowledge and respect both the good and bad emotions that arise.
Plan How You Will Honor Your Lost Loved One
The holidays are a great opportunity to exercise grief rituals. Grief rituals are anything that helps us to acknowledge and process our own grief while also recognizing and honoring the deceased. Grief rituals during the holidays can include creating a memorial, making their favorite meal, or putting their favorite Christmas ornament on the tree.
Remember, is perfectly normal to buy Christmas presents for those who've passed, such as donating to an organization or cause that was important to them, writing them a letter, or set out a place setting at the dinner table. Involving the deceased in the holiday is a healthy expression of grief and helps foster a lasting connection.
Honor Old Traditions, While Creating New Traditions
Moving through the grief process in a healthy way means that you are able to move forward in your life while maintaining a lasting connection to those who have passed. The holiday season is a great time to do this intentionally, by maintaining old traditions that the deceased was a part of, while also creating new traditions for those who are still physically present with us. For example, if your deceased loved one was always the one who put the star on top of the tree, in following years, you could carry this tradition forward by rotating which family member takes on this role and adding in the tradition of telling a story or positive memory about the deceased as the star goes on the tree.
Ask For, and Accept, Help with Holiday Grieving
Those who have experienced grief and loss know that grieving is not a linear process. Grief does not go away in six months, one year, or even five years. Grief is unbearably heavy at first, and over time you grow stronger so that you can carry it without it crushing you. In this way, grief is not something you ever set down and leave behind completely, it is something that evolves over time and becomes part of you as you move forward in your life. Similarly, your grief emotions, triggers, and the level of support you need will change. During the holidays, communicate and ask for help in accordance to the type of grief you're feeling this year.
If you are someone who has experienced loss and lived through that first holiday season, I welcome you to add your tips to the comment section below to help others through this time and build on the advice offered here.
Are you are in need of extra support through the grieving process during this time? Or maybe you are unsure how to talk to friends and family about what you need? Reach out learn more about grief counseling offered by Her Time Therapy, LLC by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling/texting (720) 255-1667.