Dealing with Grief over the Holidays

Are you dealing with grief during the Holiday season?

For most of us, there’s relatively little loss at the beginning of life. Our parents, siblings, and even grandparents are quite young. We don’t have meaningful careers that define us. Our health is good. So,  grief is not a normal emotion for us.

Eventually, though, the loss becomes a more common occurrence. Our grandparents pass away. We lose pets. We might move to a new school and lose friends.

The loss we experience becomes more significant. We may lose a parent, sibling, spouse, or even a child. We may lose a job or suffer health problems. Toward the end of life, the losses can pile up.

Learning to deal with loss is a part of developing as a human being.

During the Holidays the loss of your loved one can be even harder to deal with.

I lost my father on November 11, 2006. It was sudden in most respects to the family, although he was not in the best of health and we had celebrated his 83rd birthday in August of that year. For my brothers and I, it was a hard loss.

He and my mother had been married for 611/2 years. Theirs was a love story that none surpassed, at least to their hopelessly romantic daughter who is a daddy’s girl. To make matters worse, my mother had no desire to live without him, and by October 20, 2007, she was also gone.

My family and I buried my mother as we celebrated the one-year anniversary of my father’s passing. It was two years of holiday celebrations that no one wanted to attend.

I felt myself withdraw more and more after Christmas 2007 and to be honest with you; it took me until 2010 when I had another health scare at Christmas time before I learned to be grateful for what I had.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that coping with your grief is easy, and you can move on because it is not.

It takes a while, but I did make myself do things that I didn’t want to, and with the support of family, friends, professionals, and lots of meditation and prayers I learned how to continue my life.

How I learned to Celebrate the Holidays

  • I learned to celebrate the holidays more simply. As there were no little children around, I didn’t do all the decorations because that was too overwhelming.
  • I also honored my parents during the holidays by sponsoring a family at our Church who was in need.
  • My brother’s and I donated one of my mother’s Nativity Scenes to her Church. It was used on Christmas Eve in memory of her.
  • I sent a Christmas letter to friends of theirs that had not kept in close contact over the years, to let them know that they had passed. The responses are something that I treasure still.
  • If it is too sad to send holiday cards, then do not feel like you need to. I didn’t for several years.
  • The final thing is that I found my voice and told people what I WANTED to do and what I DIDN’T want to do during the holidays.

 

Here is a good article to read on “Coping with Grief at the Holidays.”

I finally am learning to be grateful for every moment that I get to celebrate with my family; I talk about that in my blog post “Are You In a Habit of Gratitude?”

Below are some more tips to help you deal with your Grief:

  1. Rely on your friends and family. Even if you typically prefer to spend the majority of your time alone, now is the time to reach out to your friends and family.
    • Grief can do funny things to your mind if you spend too much time by yourself. Though your instinct might be to withdraw from the world, this can be a mistake if you do it for too long.
    • Avoid feeling weak or embarrassed because you need help. Everyone needs help at one time or another.
  2. Face the loss. It might be painful to deal with the grief directly, but a constant distraction, self-medication, and other forms of denial can lead to severe consequences and prevents any true healing from occurring.
  3. Share your feelings with others. Whether that be a friend, family member, clergy member, or professional, share the feelings you’re experiencing. The alternative is to keep it all to yourself. This will make it much more challenging to move beyond your loss.
  4. Be patient with yourself. Depending on the loss and your individual nature, some losses can take years to overcome. Just trust that things will get better over time. Unfortunately, a loss is a part of life. It takes time to recover.
  5. Take care of yourself physically. Ensure that you eat well, get enough sleep, and take care of yourself in general. If you normally exercise, continue that habit. If you don’t exercise, you might find that a good workout lessens the stress and anxiety you’re feeling. Maintain your normal grooming standards.
  6. Be grateful, not for your loss, but all the other things and people in your life. While your loss may be devastating, there are still many other things in your life you can be grateful for. Make a list of all the positives in your life.
  7. Continue to do the things you enjoy. Continue with your normal hobbies and enjoyable activities as much as possible. Suffering a loss doesn’t require you to avoid those things you normally enjoy.
  8. Consider outside sources of support. There are support groups, churches, and online communities that would be happy to help. Think about all of the options you have available to you and use those that you feel comfortable with.
  9. Get professional assistance. If you find you need additional help, then find it. It might be easier to talk to a stranger than someone you know. On the other hand, some people find it more challenging. What works best for you?

A loss is an inevitable part of life. Everyone that survives childhood will deal with a significant loss in one form or another. It’s necessary to face and deal with grief directly.

Rely on your friends and family as much as you need. Remember that there are communities of people and also experts that can help you. Take good care of yourself during the holiday and be patient with your progress.

Happy Holidays.

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Elizabeth Hughes-Callison

Elizabeth Hughes-Callison is an empty nester, who has raised her kids, but she will never stop being a parent. She worked for 30+ years in the corporate environment all the while raising her two children John and Leigh with husband Randy. She learned self-care and how to have a sense of peace in her home the hard way. With humor and real-life stories, she helps you learn the same.

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