The holidays are typically a stressful time of year as is but when you’re dealing with the recent, or distant, loss of a loved one it can be particularly painful.
Usually to no fault of their own, well-meaning friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances might have intentions of helping but sometimes the support they are offering is just not what you need.
Additionally, grief doesn’t only occur after someone has died, it can also occur when you’ve experienced any kind of loss such as a cutoff relationship from a family member, loss of a job, loss of a relationship, or even a loss of normalcy.
It can also affect us differently during different stages of our lives. It’s not uncommon to be hit “out of the blue” with sadness and grief even if we never experienced it before associated with a particular loss.
Grief comes in all shapes and sizes but how we treat it follows a pretty similar formula.
Here are some tips on how to get through the holidays while grieving.
1) Time does NOT heal all wounds - it’s what you do with that time that does. Anyone going through, or has gone through grief, knows that being told that it just gets better with time knows that it’s total horses#$%!
If you don’t deal with your grief it’s possible that you could still be suffering years from now, even if it’s just beneath the surface. It doesn’t mean that you need to wallow in your grief and become a martyr to the loss but it does mean that giving some solid time to thinking, feeling, and remembering can go a long way.
2) Give yourself some grace and be kind to yourself - now is not the time for perfectionism - decorating the perfect tree, organizing the perfect holiday party, nor shopping for the perfect gift just doesn’t matter right now (nor any other time for that matter). Allow yourself to feel whatever it is you’re feeling and just freakin feel it!
3) Be kind to yourself - you know how you can hear yourself giving the best advice to someone else and you know as the words are coming out of your mouth that it’s the same advice you should be taking yourself? Now’s the time to follow your own intuitive wisdom. Tell your inner asshole to sit down, STFU, and let self-forgiveness and kindness take center stage...for once!
4) Ask for and accept help - hey...hey you...yeah, you. The one who’s working so hard to not let others see you sweat. Stop it. Just stop. You suffering in silence is no badge of honor and really, it just isn’t cool. Why do you think carrying around that 50 pound weight on your back means something? It doesn’t. Keeping your pain to yourself isn’t getting you anywhere and you’re also selfishly depriving others from the wisdom you’ve gained by having gone through this. Get over yourself and talk to a therapist or join a support group already.
5) Give back - the funny thing about grief is that it can sometimes be so isolating that it makes us feel like we’re the only ones going through it. Or we somehow become convinced that other people won’t understand MY grief as if it’s so different. Volunteering or donating to a charity that honors the loss can strangely make you feel connection again and it’s a beautiful way to honor a legacy. Don’t let the loss be lost in vain.
In the case of death, this also works even if you hated the departed...it can help bridge a gap that you weren’t able to while they were alive.
6) Stop making comparisons - How you grieve is how you grieve and how others grieve is how they grieve. There is no right way. Just because your sister seems to be “grieving better than you” doesn’t mean she is. People have many ways of expressing their emotions. If you’re more dramatic with your feelings, it just means you’re more dramatic. It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that. Grief comes in waves...it won’t be long until you’re onto the next wave.
7) Just say no to things and be done - typically there are holiday parties, work functions and events, and family gatherings that happen around the holidays. Give yourself permission to sit this one out this year. The energy you save by opting out will be worth its weight in gold for your psyche and mental capacity. There will be many more in future years. You don’t have to go this year. Your mother will just have to get over it.
8) Focus on what you can control - you can’t control the obnoxious holiday music at the store or the pushy advertisements trying to guilt you into buying that stupid gadget that’ll just sit in your garage anyway. Give yourself permission to shop online, do bare minimum shopping, and spend your holidays the way that you want to.
9) Plan ahead, or don’t - it might take some pressure off to try and plan things ahead of time or it could make things worse. Trust your gut and do what feels right to you. You don’t have to do anything but just be.
10) Celebrate however the F you want! Or don’t! Again, you get to decide whether or not you’re decorating this year or if you’re not. You get to decide how many gifts you buy. It’s just really not that big of a deal. Most people are so self-involved they’re not going to notice anyway.
How about creating a new tradition? Create a memory stocking or memory box - write down your memories and put them inside.
11) Give yourself permission to feel happy, if you do - many people feel guilty for feeling happy during their grief - as if it is somehow dishonoring the loss. In the case of death, ask yourself - wouldn’t they want you to be happy? Or if they wouldn’t, don’t you? Staying sad or depressed isn’t going to bring them back no matter what. As crass as it sounds, life is for the living. Why not honor them through happiness, positivity, and gratitude instead?
Want some specific ideas of what to do to cope with grief during the holidays? Try this list of 64 fun, unique ideas!
Book a FREE Phone Consultation: https://calendly.com/bluesage/15min
Blue Sage Counseling and Wellness, and the information provided by Ashley Francis, is solely intended for informational and entertainment purposes and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis, or treatment regarding medical or mental health conditions. Although Ashley Francis is a licensed marriage and family therapist, the views expressed on this site or any related content should not be taken for medical or psychiatric advice. Always consult your physician before making any decisions related to your physical or mental health.