6 Ways to Cope When You’re Grieving During the Holidays
Despite the cliches about it being the most wonderful time of the year, the holiday season isn’t always cheerful. Many people feel sad, lonely, anxious, or stressed during the holidays. In addition, research shows that 64% of individuals with mental illnesses indicate that the winter months worsen their symptoms.
It’s no secret that dealing with grief is already heavy and complicated enough. But coping when you’re grieving during the holidays can be particularly rough. Here are some crucial tips to consider.
Be Gentle With Yourself
Whether the loss happened recently or many years ago, all forms of grief can be devastating. Unique triggers related to the loss may emerge during the holidays, and facing those triggers often feels painful.
It’s important that you practice self-compassion and patience with yourself during this time. Don’t pressure yourself to “feel” or “think” a certain way. Don’t assume you need to have “moved on” in any specific way. Putting such pressure on yourself only exacerbates shame and guilt.
If you don’t want to participate in specific traditions, that’s okay. Honoring your grief process means honoring self-care and self-love. Try to prioritize those essential needs as you move through the hustle of the season.
Recreate Old Traditions (Or Start New Ones)
Some people find that celebrating old traditions helps them honor the loss they endured. In many cases, recreating old joys can be a way to signify a loved one.
It can be helpful to acknowledge the change for yourself. For example, you may need to reflect on the fact that someone else will be hosting Thanksgiving dinner. Or, you might need to come to terms with recognizing that you will be spending Christmas at a different home.
Of course, at times, old traditions feel too painful, awkward, or inappropriate to maintain. If that’s the case, spend some time reflecting on how you can start new rituals. How can you still celebrate and find joy this time of year? Even if it goes against the status quo, what feels right to you?
While you might want to dismiss the holidays altogether, try not to move into an all-or-nothing mindset. Isolating yourself may cause more pain and suffering. Even if you tone things down, leaning on support and finding small moments to celebrate can make a significant difference in your healing process.
Many people overextend themselves during the holidays, leading to resentment and disappointment. Be mindful of your tendencies to oblige to every commitment. Remember that you are allowed to say no to events that don’t honor your best interest.
Certain events may trigger painful emotions- don’t feel required to “bear through them” just because you want to please others. Such efforts often backfire, which can cause excess stress on everyone involved.
Setting healthy boundaries is a crucial part of the grief process. After all, you are entitled to spend your free time doing things that bring you a sense of purpose and joy.
Take Care of Your Physical Well-Being
The holidays are undoubtedly associated with several months of overindulgence. Overeating, drinking, spending lots of money may be reasonable in moderation. However, excessive overindulgence can compromise your health, energy, and well-being.
Instead, try to commit to sticking with a consistent routine. Try to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, and maintain an appropriate sleep schedule. Having a predictable set of activities can help you feel more balanced during this time.
Be careful with how you engage in certain escape behaviors. Numbing the pain may make things feel better temporarily. But, in the long run, this pattern only stunts the grieving process and often causes more problems.
Consider How You Can Give to Others
Giving back or volunteering your time offers profound benefits. It can help you harness more gratitude and appreciation for your life. Moreover, it can improve your confidence, self-esteem, and sense of connectivity to others. Finally, it also supports making the world a better place.
Consider how you can honor your loss by giving to others. You may decide to donate money or a special gift to a cause that was important to your loved one. Or, you could consider adopting a family in need.
Even focusing on the “giving” part of the holidays- through gifts, special meals, and helping others feel loved- can reap positive benefits. Just be considerate of your own limits. You shouldn’t be giving so much that you feel like you have nothing left.
How Therapy Helps When You’re Grieving During the Holidays
Grieving during the holidays may feel lonely, but isolating with your feelings can make things worse. No matter your circumstances, seeking professional support offers relief and guidance during this vulnerable time.
At Willow Counseling, we are here for you. We offer grief therapy that can help you understand, process, and start healing from your pain. Contact us today to learn more.