Grief still makes a lot of people uncomfortable and it’s also an on-going struggle for the person grieving that’s sometimes exacerbated during the holidays. In truth, another person’s sadness makes people uncomfortable, which is why we don’t tell others about our sadness. And this is perhaps why we haven’t been taught to grieve properly. But not knowing how to suffer probably can, in return, cause prolonged damage. This is called complicated grief, and it happens when someone is unable to move through the stages of grieving. The symptoms of complicated grief are usually the same as the symptoms of healthy grieving; however, when the symptoms do not fade over time, linger, or get worse, it can become alarming to your mental and physical health. So, don’t be ashamed to grieve. As counterproductive as it may feel, allow yourself to grieve, even when the rest of the world is decorated in red and green and telling you ’tis the season to be jolly. Instead, be where you are if you’re in the midst of a period grieving. Here are some ways you can deal with grief during the holidays.
It’s OKAY To Say No
The world tends to force the joy of Christmas on you. Buildings are decorated, trees are lit up, and even coffee has a theme. Because of that, it may seem like you, too, have to express the joy of the season. You don’t. In fact, if you try to force yourself to be part of the celebration, you may be suppressing your genuine feelings of grief. To understand what you genuinely feel, tap into your emotions. Often, journaling, meditating, and even showering can help identify your feelings. If you think that seeing others, being in crowds, or celebrating feels forced or even exhausting, that may not be the remedy. If you are in a deep place of sadness (expected during the grieving process), allow yourself to be in it. If you need company, be very particular with who you have around you. Ensure that your safe place includes sensitive, compassionate people who understand you are healing and who do what they can to accommodate that. I hate to be the one that says it, but the friend that thinks liquor is medicine is not it. The tia who tells you you have to be strong is not it. The boyfriend who pushes for intimacy is not it. Be in your sadness and invite only those who can take off your sadness. Say no to anything else that pressures you to avoid yourself.
As mentioned before, recognizing and admitting that you are in the stages of grief is crucial to starting the path to healing. The embracing part of the process is not easy, and it requires you to be attentive to your needs and be accommodating to your needs. This may mean skipping out on gatherings, parties, and celebrations and that’s OKAY. Embracing your current emotions and the ebbs and flows of experiencing a profound loss is part of the healing process. You are entitled to feel your pain. Your pain represents the relationship you had with your loved one. In no way should you be bullied, shamed, or expected to move past your pain at anyone else’s pace but yours. Take your time. Feel your pain. To do this responsibly — because all the pain at once for a long time doesn’t help create balance — make sure to continue tapping into your emotions.
Honor Traditions and Memories
It may not be easy to get through the holidays with simply the memory of a loved one. One way to still celebrate your lost one without suppressing the pain of losing them is by honoring their traditions and their memories. If they have a special holiday drink, make it. If they used a Christmas sweater, wear it. If they sang a particular Christmas carol, sing it. This may get difficult. It won’t be an easy, bittersweet send-off like depicted in the movies. It may get tough, and you may need to take a break, pause, or try again later. And that’s OKAY. But honoring their memory by living out their traditions and habits during the holidays will make you feel closer to them. It will reignite specific memories that will, ironically, comfort you.
If You Have Children, Keep the Consistency
Your children’s monumental life memories shouldn’t change too much. This does not mean that the emptiness of losing a loved one doesn’t exist. It means that consistency is a child’s foundation for healthy coping strategies. While they may be experiencing the loss of a loved one, it is essential for children too, when they’re ready, to understand that missing someone doesn’t always have to correlate with the pain directly. They can forget their loved ones and still create good, happy memories. Maintaining consistency, even for yourself, is essential. So, if your loved one would play the Santa of the family, make sure someone else puts on the Santa Costume.
Do Something For Others
Doing something for another person can remind you of your importance, purpose, and impact. It is natural to be sad, depressed, have low energy, and be disinterested in various things. However, depression can also lead you to forget about the things that make you happy and fulfill you. You must remind yourself of your power and purpose on Earth during the grieving process. During the holidays, many people need help. When you make an effort to contribute to someone else’s well-being, you are reminding yourself of how important you are and how important it is for you to heal. Even in the middle of pain, you are very needed.
Ask for help
You are allowed to struggle while moving through the grieving process, even during the holidays, especially during the holidays. The holidays are a time for intimacy, closeness, gratitude, love, and family. It is rational to feel the pressure of pain and emptiness during this season because of that, it is also reasonable to ask for help. Contact people, you trust who understand your pain. An ideal friend is someone who encourages you to practice self-care by showering, eating, and even dressing up but doesn’t force you or shame you to do it. If you need additional support, you should contact grieving support groups as well as a therapist who specializes in grief.
Remember that how you feel is up to you. Healing doesn’t look the same for everyone. The key here is to confront your emotions and move forward. Avoiding your pain will only contribute to long-term symptoms of complicated grief. How you maneuver through the holidays should be a reflection of how you feel. Engage when you’re ready, but if you instead stay at home with a small group of friends and family who can honor your loved one, you can do that too.