While the holidays can be cause for reunion and celebration, the holidays can also be reminder of those close to you that are no longer present. While you will probably still be affected by their absence, here are some helpful suggestions that may provide you with tools for coping with grief during the holiday season.
Don’t Isolate Yourself
While you may not feel like you want to associate with people during the holidays, even if you must force yourself, do your best to participate in the activities going on around you. Acknowledge, to yourself, that you don’t really want to do this, and then take action to follow through to attend.
Don’t Get Too Busy
While getting out during the holidays is important be careful to create a manageable schedule, especially if you are not used to be extremely busy. Choose the activities that you will enjoy most. Being over active can cause undue stress which does not help you to deal with a broken heart.
Be Mindful of the Misuse Alcohol or Food
As a young child you may have been conditioned to believe that you could use food to cover up or push down your feelings. While this example was not done intentionally, by those who loved or cared for you, when upset you may have been told not to feel bad and were given a cookie or a mug of hot chocolate to help you to feel better. We teach what we know and learn from what we have experienced, observed, or heard from those around us. As you get older there may be a chance that you might replace the cookie with overeating or the hot chocolate with drugs or alcohol in an attempt to mask your feelings of loneliness and sadness.
Talk About How You Are Feeling
Grieving people are not broken. They do not need to be fixed, but rather they just want to be heard. In North America we are very uncomfortable talking about death and grieving and as a result we want to empathize with our own stories, offer advice, or change the topic of conversation. It is very important, during the holidays especially, that you have a friend that you can trust to let you talk about your memories and feelings; a heart with ears.
Don’t Dwell On Talking About How You Are Feeling
While it is important to talk about how you are feeling, telling the same story over and over is not helpful. In fact telling the same story over and over strengthens the peptides that crave this feeling of sadness. Take a moment, with a friend, to acknowledge how you are feeling, for example, “I really miss Bill right now” and then make a conscious effort to talk about something else. Your emotions want to be recognized but it is not helpful to dwell on them.
Time Does Not Heal
While time can shift the intensity of the pain caused by loss, it cannot heal. Time is not an action. What heals are the actions that you choose to take during the passage of time that allows you to recover from the pain of your loss. Recovery from grief happens with take small and correct actions.
It is normal and natural to focus on the loss and the sadness of your grief. When you are aware that you are focusing in this direction, take a movement to recall a positive memory of your loved one. For example a time they made you laugh, a special trip you took, etc. This allows your sad emotions to be replaced with a happier memory.
Identifying Your Sadness
During times of grief you may find that you identify your sadness in time segments such as “I had a bad week” or “I had a bad day”. When you notice you are feeling sad try to realign the timeframe. For example, “I felt sad this morning” or “I had a rough evening”. That allows you to be open and to recognize that during other times that day or week you did have an experience other than grief.
For some the first holiday after a loss can be the most painful, but that is not true for everyone. For some the most difficult holiday can be two or three years down the road. Individuals who are waiting for time to ease the pain of loss may find that the pain of grief increases with each passing year.
The holidays provide a good time for you to monitor your grief. While grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss, whether it be a death or the breakup of a romantic relationship, it is important to find helpful tools to assist you to discover and recovery from your loss.
In North America we are socialized to “get stuff” and we are ill prepared for how to cope with “loss”. The Grief Recovery Institute likens it to trying to paint a room with a screwdriver. If the resources available to you have not helped, it is not because of something that is wrong with you. It is simply because of a lack of incorrect information.
The Grief Recovery Institute offers a variety of resources to recover from grief. The Grief Recovery Handbook, Moving On (relationships), and When Children Grieve (supporting children when they grieve) can be helpful.
As a Grief Recovery Specialist I offer one-on-one and group programs to assist you through The Grief Recovery process.
Whatever method you choose it is important to be aware that recovery is possible. The Grief Recovery Method has successfully supported more than a half million people to deal with the impact of grief.