Coping with Grief During the Holidays (Loss of a Loved One)
The holiday season can often times be a difficult time of year, especially those dealing with the loss of a loved one. During this time, holiday preparations can remind us of those who are no longer in our lives. Calendars loaded with holiday events, gatherings, and traditions can often create overwhelming feelings of loss. This year may be especially difficult due to the limited in person socialization that is related to COVID regulations. Additionally, the holidays can often make us feel pressured to think positive and feel happy, but this undo pressure of how we are expected to feel, may increase our feelings of grief and sorrow. At Quintessential Health, we provide support in coping with concerns related to grief and loss. The pain of losing a loved one can be difficult, but there are healthy approaches that you can take to help you heal.
Here are six coping strategies that you can use this holiday season:
1. Feel your feelings. Acknowledge that what you are feeling is normal, and that the grieving process is different for everyone. Allow yourself to be just where you are and don’t feel as though you should be somewhere else.
2. Plan ahead. Allowing yourself to be in control of your circumstances can help to minimize overwhelming feelings and palliate the grieving process. Allow yourself to have free-time. Incorporate some exercise or other self-care methods into your schedule. Grab a virtual tea or coffee with a friend who you can confide in.
3. Learn to say no. Although in the past you may have cherished holiday traditions, it is okay to take a break. It is okay not to attend events that may stir up too many emotions and memories and make you feel overextended. Let go of traditions that may not be serving you right now. You can always resume them in years to come. Additionally, do your best to steer clear of persons who may trigger your strong emotions during this time. Again, remind yourself that everyone copes with the grieving process differently.
4. Put your physical body first. Losing a loved one can not only be hard on the mind, but also hard on the body. Immune functioning can be reduced as a result of significant stress. Increased levels of stress can cause individuals to become fatigued, exhausted, and distracted, which can put the individual at an even greater risk for an accident. Give your body the attention it needs during this difficult time. Ensure to get adequate sleep, pay attention to your diet and nutrition, and engage in physical activity or any kind of movement. Engaging in physical activity helps the body release neurochemicals that influence feelings of hope and the potential bonding with other people. For example, virtual group fitness classes are a great way to interact and connect with others by moving, breathing and sweating together, without the pressure of having conversations. Regardless of what you choose to do, it’s important to be physically active.
5. Get support. Not all social situations may be right for you. For example, if group fitness classes aren’t your style, find other means of support so not to isolate yourself from others. Turn to family members or friends during this difficult time. You are not a burden and your support system understands that. Everyone experiences grief at some point in their lives. Grief counselors, support groups, and other services provided by many organizations, such as Quintessential Health, may be helpful. Reach out to your local mental health associations for information and support. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline offers referrals to grief resources, counselors, and groups. The handbook from the Grief Recovery Institute is a great resource and is available in libraries and bookstores.
6. Take action. Often times when we lose a loved one, we reflect on the things we wanted to say or things we should have done. These feelings can be overwhelming. Acknowledging these feelings will help to provide closure. Share your feelings by perhaps writing a letter to your loved one or talking with a trusted friend about your thoughts and feelings. Find other ways to honor your loved one by displaying pictures in your home. Perhaps in a place where you can pause and have a moment of mindfulness. Create a new holiday tradition in remembrance of them or just let yourself feel their presence during the holiday season.
It is normal to feel grief after the death of a loved one and the holidays can amplify that grief. Don’t be afraid to get help. The grieving process is different for everyone and you will find what works best for you. Remember, you are strong, resilient and needed. You will get through this.
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