Experiencing Grief and Loss During the Holidays

For some, the holidays are the most exciting time of the year. It seems this year especially, people started preparing and celebrating much earlier than usual. Stores and homes are decorated, people are shopping for the perfect gifts, and festive music seems to always be playing. While this is great for those who love the holidays, it can be tricky for those missing a loved one. Since the holidays are usually a time spent with family and those we love most, it can bring up some painful and hard feelings for those missing loved ones who have passed.  

Are you dreading this holiday season? Maybe you’re wondering how you’re going to get through yet another painful time?  

Here are some things that might help as you move through this difficult time:  

Acknowledge the pain and validate your emotions 

Unfortunately, there is no perfect timeframe or way to grieve. During this time, it may be helpful to acknowledge the pain you feel. Many times, we try staying busy or continuing to stuff our feelings down hoping to avoid those painful emotions. These emotions can sometimes look like sadness, anxiety, frustration, guilt, anger, and lack of motivation. These emotions might also come with thoughts like “I don’t want to do this,” or “How will I survive?” These are all normal emotions and thoughts to have throughout the grieving process. Actively addressing these painful emotions and uncomfortable thoughts is important, and especially important during the holidays. Some ways to do that may be writing in a journal, talking to a loved one, getting outside, or regularly moving your body. Again, there is no perfect way to grieve, but one of the most important things is that you acknowledge your pain and validate your emotions. 

Don’t be afraid to say “No”

The author Aundi Kolber once said, “Boundary work is often grief work.” This is so true and something to keep in mind during the holidays. Give yourself the freedom to say no. Going to certain small dinners or participating in gift swaps might be too painful, and it’s okay if you don’t want to participate. It can be easy to feel pressured to please other people, however setting healthy boundaries for yourself will limit stress and potential triggers. With that being said, isolation is a dangerous place to be. Set healthy boundaries to prevent yourself from being overwhelmed but continue to engage with those close individuals around you, even when you might not want to. 

Feel isolated? Reach out to a friend or family member and safely grab a coffee or go on a socially distanced walk. This may be difficult at times, but staying engaged and connected to others during your grief journey is important.  

Remember the good memories 

Spend some time reflecting on the exciting and joyful times you spent with your loved one. You might do this by lighting a candle for them or decorating something in their honor and memory. Did they have a favorite food you can cook or holiday song you can sing along to? Find a tangible reminder of them, tell stories about your loved one, and maybe even browse through old photos.  You might decide to keep some of your old traditions the same because you know it would make them happy and help you remember the special times you had with them. 

Create new memories and traditions  

Maybe this year you add one or two things to your list of usual traditions. Always sent a Holiday Card? Maybe you skip that this year and drive around to look at neighborhood lights instead! Or schedule a safe, socially distanced brunch instead of having the usual dinner. This is a time to be creative and step outside the box. A fresh activity this season might bring some joy you haven’t experienced in a while. 

Honor your loved one 

Spreading joy in their name this season is a great way to honor your loved one.  You can buy something they would love and donate it to a non-profit or donate money in their name. You could even light a candle or make their favorite dish or dessert. There are many ways to honor your loved one during the season, don’t be afraid to get creative. 

Ask for help 

Even though this season can feel lonely, remember that you are not alone. Reach out to someone close to you when you need some support and let them know how you are feeling. Don’t be afraid to make an appointment with a counsellor or join a support group to help you during this difficult and challenging time. 

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