11 Tips for Dealing with Holiday Grief

The lyrics from a famous Christmas song suggest December and Christmas as the most wonderful time of the year.

Yet for women who are grieving, the holidays represent fresh sorrow. They do not feel joy nor do they want to find enjoyment at such a difficult time.

How do we survive the holiday season when everyone else acts like cheerful elves while all we want to do is curl up in the fetal position and forget?

Perhaps some of these tips will help:

Express Your Feelings.

It’s okay to grieve, even during Christmas. Others may not understand but you are not responsible for how they feel. You are only responsible for yourself and your own reactions.

Allow yourself the time and space to grieve – in whatever way is best for you. No one else can tell you how to grieve or how long to grieve.

Be with People You Trust.

Although it IS okay to grieve, it is also important not to isolate yourself too long. Surround yourself with a support group that encourages you and helps you through the grief. Choose friends and/or family who allow you to be real.

Embrace the Memories.

Hanging ornaments on the tree often brings back special memories. Or baking a special Christmasy treat may trigger the smells and textures of Christmas past with that wonderful someone.

Go ahead and make that special holiday food or play that favorite Christmas song. Remember the good times and be grateful for the time you had together.

Re-examine Your Priorities.

You do not have to do everything you once did to make the holidays special. This is the time for self-care, so eliminate any unnecessary stress.

Set realistic expectations. Simplify. You don’t need to finish thank you notes from the funeral and then send out a bunch of Christmas cards. Do only what feels right for you.

Take Care of Yourself.

It’s easy to eat too much of the wrong foods, drink too much and miss out on rest. Especially during the holidays and especially while you are grieving, take care of yourself.

But maybe you need to have a toast of rum-filled eggnog to best memorialize Grandpa. Or maybe you need to make some fudge to remember Mama. Enjoy the treats of the season – within moderation.

Self-care might also include getting away. Plan a trip to the mountains or the beach. Use your Christmas money to escape from the craziness all around you and the constant memories. Whatever you need to do, give yourself the grace of self-care.

Exercise.

This tip follows the idea of taking care of yourself. Perhaps this is NOT the time to schedule an intense workout at the gym, but what about a brisk walk in the cool air? Or a few minutes of yoga stretches?

The movement will clear your head, boost your endorphins and help you deal with the holiday stress. Just the movement of walking can keep us from diving into depression.

So grab a friend you trust and take a quick walk.

Remember, Christmas is just one day.

The holidays will soon be over and you can launch into a new year. This difficult season will be past and everything that happened to you will be a memory – part of your history.

Keep looking forward. Keep trusting God to complete the good plan he has for your life. Think about tomorrow and be grateful for the days ahead when everything won’t hurt quite so much.

Do What Feels Comfortable.

Set boundaries around your life. You do not have to meet everyone’s expectations. You do not have to be involved in the same activities as before. Do what you want to do – whatever feels comfortable to you.

Eliminate anything that feels stressful or too overwhelming to deal with now.

Create New Traditions.

Your world is not the same as before, but you still have the freedom to do whatever you want. Try something new and create a new holiday tradition.

A writer friend of mine lost her daughter to brain cancer. Every year, on the anniversary of her death, my friend takes a gift to the children’s hospital and gives it to the first little girl born on that day. She memorializes her daughter and blesses the new parents. She has created a new tradition around the holidays that helps her deal with her grief.

Do Something for Others.

One of the best ways to move beyond our grief is to consider the needs of others – just as my friend does every year. Think of ways you can bless someone else.

Visit a nursing home and adopt one of the residents for a few hours of joy. Make a treat for your neighbors – maybe something your loved one especially enjoyed baking and eating. Go caroling at a hospital and bless those who can’t leave for the holidays.

Move beyond your own grief for a moment and offer hope to someone else.

Consider Counseling.

If you’re feeling as if you can’t cope with the holidays, consider counseling. We have licensed, professional counselors at GateWay and we also have a Grief Recovery Program. We can help.

Take care of yourself by doing whatever is necessary to make it through the holidays and move forward with hope.

What about you? How do you cope with holiday grief?

©2016 GateWay of Hope – Hope, Healing and Wholeness for Women

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