For anyone experiencing grief over the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be an especially difficult time of the year. Hearing joyful tunes on every station, seeing festive decorations adorn every storefront and homestead, being wished happy tidings for weeks (or months) in advance… These can all stir up intense emotions when someone is grieving and make it really hard to cope.
Grief itself can show up as feelings of shock, intense waves of distress, sudden outbursts of laughter, numbness, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, restlessness, and even guilt. All this is considered part of the normal grieving process.
Each of us comes to terms with loss in our own personal way, and what's “normal” in the process of mourning varies greatly between cultures, individuals, and situations. What’s “normal” for me, may seem foreign to you.
So how do you handle sadness and grief during the holidays when everyone around you seems to be filled with immense joy?
Even when we’re not grieving, the holidays can be a stressful time. Approach this year’s holidays with self-compassion and grace, knowing that things will be different than previous years, but that your heart is healing each day and there is help all around.
Take each day as it comes and remember to honour your path to healing in whatever healthy way feels right.
Implementing some of these proven coping techniques may help you through the holidays a little bit easier:
- Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. Release, acknowledge and let go. Embracing your emotions and accepting them for what they are can help you recognize and better handle big feelings when they arise next. If you feel sad, allow the tears to flow. If you feel angry, talk to someone who is great at listening -- or write it down. Journal writing is extremely therapeutic and can help reduce stress, solve problems and even improve sleep. Here are some helpful grief journaling tips: http://mindfulnessandgrief.com/grief-journaling/
- Try grounding. Geared to bring attention to the here-and-now and away from thoughts of worry and anxiety, adding even 5 minutes a day of grounding, gratitude or meditation focus can help ease feelings of distress. You can download a free app for your phone, search online for free audio or video resources, or try this free grounding audio exercise here: https://www.therapistaid.com/interactive-therapy-tool/grounding-exercise-audio
- Make self-care a priority. When stressful situations arise, it’s especially important to ensure you take time to care for your own well-being and to say “no” to things that don’t feel right. This can be as simple as taking a nap, writing in your journal, listening to music, walking in nature, seeing a movie, getting a massage, or doing something that sparks creativity and healing.
- Volunteer at a cause close to your heart. Being of service to others is a great tool for healing as it helps improve our mental health, increases our connection to community, and leaves us with a sense of peace in helping others in need. Whether you choose to volunteer at a local soup kitchen, nursing home, hospital or even help another family member who may be suffering, your time is the greatest gift you can give.
- Choose the best way to honour your loved one. Every one of us copes with loss in our own way -- what works for others, may not work for you. This holiday, don’t be afraid to change traditions that no longer work for you, and create new holiday traditions and celebrations that will allow you to remember your loved ones best. Go with whatever feels right for you and your family. For ideas on how to honour the memory of a loved one lost, see our recent blog post here: https://www.leclaircremationcentre.ca/blog#170
- Ask for help. After the loss of a loved one, people often want to help in added ways but don’t know how. Don’t be afraid to ask for assistance if you are struggling with preparing meals, cleaning, shopping, or even caring for your children. In my experience, you’ll find family, friends and acquaintances more than willing to pitch in during tough times. The kindness of strangers may surprise you even more.
If you or someone you know could use extra support in managing grief or loss this season, please reach out to any of the amazing local resources available in your community. Grief counsellors, support groups, hospices, churches, and community centres are all great resources to receive healing and support from.
For a list of local grief support services, please visit https://www.leclaircremationcentre.ca/grief