Coping With Grief During The Holidays

Although this season may be a time of joy for families and friends, others may have difficulties coping with the loss of a loved one and the joyous memories shared with them.  Since it may be difficult to experience grief while everyone else is happy and rejoicing, we would like to offer our guidance and help. Here are a few tips for those of you experiencing bereavement during the holidays:

Focus on these three components when considering your self-care:

  • Physical: Exercising can help relieve stress and give you the strength and endurance to perform activities of daily living (ADL’s). However, know your limits; start exercising lightly and progress consistently each week. Having a balanced diet may also prevent you from feeling drowsy, and give you enough energy to be active throughout the day.
  • Social: Socializing and being active with others may help cope with the loss of a loved one. You should never feel alone; there are always people around that love you and want to help.
  • Psychological: Having a positive mindset is one of the most important components of well-being. Although it may be difficult to do this while grieving, even starting off small with a few positive thoughts each day will help you get back to your everyday life. “Taking inventory” of the positive aspects still present in your life – whether they be people, places, possessions, or any combination therein – will often help you move past the feeling of loss that comes with grief.  All of our “everyday blessings” deserve attention and should help us appreciate current life we live.  That being said, the holiday season is a perfect time to pay attention to these positive aspects that are taken for granted.

Participate in Holiday Activities

  • Shopping: If you need to do some holiday shopping, try scheduling it during a time when stores are not too crowded. Asking for company from a family member or friend, especially one who has experienced the same loss that you have, will help battle the feeling of isolation that often accompanies grief.  You can also pay attention to self-care while shopping by doing activities such as listening to carolers, seeing children visit Santa Claus at the local mall, or even getting a cup of hot cocoa. These activities may help distract you from grief and recall some happy holiday memories.
  • Accept Invitations: Although you may be tempted to give in to your sadness and isolate yourself during the holiday season, it is important to attend social events and enjoy the company of loved ones as often as possible. Accepting every invitation isn’t necessary (unless you want to), but attending a few events may help you enjoy something that you didn’t think you would. This can also be an opportunity to connect with others and meet new friends.
  • Keep Traditions Alive: Don’t let grief stop you from keeping strong traditions alive. These traditions may be important to not only to you, but to your family members and friends as well. You can also start new traditions, such as commemorating your loved one, to cope with bereavement in a positive way.

Children and the Holidays

Be prepared to deal with the grief process of children and/or teenagers; although they may be hurtful or mean towards you, try to be patient and understand that this is a situation that is equally as difficult for them as it is for you. Be empathetic towards their feelings and attitudes, and try to remember that many of them have little or no experience with the grieving process.  If they don’t feel like talking about their feelings, then don’t force them.  However, if they try to reach out to you, be attentive and give them your undivided attention.

These are a few options you can take towards self-care while grieving during the holidays. Each person is different and has their own methods when coping, so it’s important that you pay attention to your own needs and find which methods are right for you.

Reference: Klicker, R. (2014). Grief and the Holidays: Experiencing the Holidays and Special Occasions Without A Loved One. Acworth, GA: Guideline Publications