Learning to Cope With Grief During the Holidays
The holiday season seems to get longer every year. Holiday decorations come out in stores before September is even over, and retailers push merchandise long before most of us are ready to think about buying gifts or decorating our homes. While the season may seem to go on too long for many of us, to those who are grieving it can seem like an eternity.
If you’ve recently lost someone important to you, the impending holidays may seem too much to bear. While grief is unique to each person, there are some practical ways to cope during the holiday season.
- Make your own plans. Holiday traditions are not set in stone, and it’s up to you to decide which you want to keep and which might be too difficult this year. Do as much or as little as you want, being assertive about your own needs, and letting your loved ones know ahead of time how you may need to change your holiday plans. Don’t overcommit, and if you do decide to participate, have a plan to duck out early if you need to.
- Allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling. Everyone around you may be celebrating, but that doesn’t make it wrong for you to be sad. By the same token, it’s OK to be happy, even in the face of your recent loss. Find joy in the season if it’s possible, but don’t feel badly if you’re experiencing negative emotions. Grief is different for each person, and whatever you feel is part of your own unique experience.
- Let other people help you. You may find yourself surrounded by loving friends and family, or you may just have one trusted person with whom you can share your feelings. Wherever you can find support, accept it. Even if you need to reach out for professional help, join a support group or attend a service of remembrance, it’s important to find people in whom you can confide.
- Make time and space for memories. The holidays can be full of nostalgia, even if you haven’t suffered a loss. If you are grieving, that nostalgia can be powerful and sometimes painful. If you allow yourself to remember, though, memories of your loved one can be part of your healing process. Share memories with others by telling stories, looking at photo albums, and perhaps providing an opportunity for friends and family members to share notes and mementos in a book or memory box. Find a way to memorialize your loved one that has meaning for you, whether that’s lighting a candle, volunteering in his or her honor, or simply setting an extra place at the table.
- Reach out to help other people. Sometimes, a big part of healing can be helping someone else. Giving your time, talents and resources to others can help you form real connections, which can ease the pain of your own grief. Look for ways to do this, whether it’s inviting someone to dinner who might otherwise be lonely or adopting a needy family for the holidays. You might find it meaningful to donate in memory of your loved one or provide flowers or decorations for your place of worship.
If you’re having trouble managing your grief, it’s important to reach out for help. At Evergreen Mortuary and Cemetery, we have resources to help you work through your grief and begin to heal. Our counselors are here to help and refer you to support groups, and our online support resources are here 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help you navigate this difficult time in your life. Call (520) 428-7438 to learn more about all we have to offer.