Grief at the Holidays: 10 Tips for Coping
The pain of grief and the loneliness of loss are challenging to face at any time of the year, but the holiday season can feel downright unbearable. Not only are you faced with constant reminders of holidays past when your loved one was by your side, but the celebratory atmosphere and tidings of joy can feel overwhelming when you’re simply trying to make it through the day.
If you’re struggling with grief at the holidays, here are ten tips for coping:
1. Be Honest – With Yourself and Others
One of the best things you can do for yourself during a holiday season of sadness is to be honest about what you want to do, and what you don’t want to do. Forcing yourself to attend all your normal festivities and faking a smile throughout may simply take too much energy.
2. Be Intentional About Location
Whether you decide to switch things up and spend the holidays in a new location, or continue with past traditions out of a sense of comfort, make a conscious decision about where you’ll spend these challenging days.
3. Let Go of Guilt
Many people feel guilty for failing to send holiday cards or decorate for the season, but remember that there are no rules here. When you’re in grief at the holidays, don’t feel guilty for foregoing certain traditions.
4. Join a Grief Support Group
Whether virtual or in-person, joining a group of people who are also struggling can be a nice change of pace from all of the holiday merriment.
5. Start a Gratitude Journal
Journaling is a cathartic exercise, and when you’re jotting down the things you’re grateful for, it can serve as a needed reminder of all the good things in your life, big and small.
6. Say ‘Yes’ to Self-Care
Take time to care for your mental, emotional and physical health. Make sure you get enough rest, eat right and engage in activities that make you feel less stressed, such as reading a good book or watching your favorite movie.
7. Don’t Overcommit
This is a time in your life when it’s okay to say ‘no’ – even to the people and things you have always said ‘yes’ to before. Save your energy for the most important things, and skip the rest this year.
8. Consider a Memorial Activity
Whether you choose to make your loved one’s favorite dish, buy a new ornament in their honor or something else more personal to you, take time to honor and remember the person you have lost.
9. Have a Good Cry
It sounds cliché, but letting out all your pent up emotion is important. Burying the pain deeper won’t make you feel better and the holidays bring up all sorts of difficult emotions for bereaved individuals.
10. Start a New Tradition
There is nothing wrong with keeping your past traditions in place, but if they cause you too much pain then consider adding something new to your holiday season instead. It could be volunteering at a community food pantry, adopting a local family for the holidays or cooking a new dish.
If your holidays are marked by grief this year, remember you are not alone. Reach out for help if needed and use the above tips to help you cope during this difficult time.