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Grieving a Loved One During the Holidays

tea cranberries pinecone

After losing someone we love, it can sometimes be difficult to experience joyful moments without them. While the holiday season can bring back memories of beautiful times you spent together, it also reminds us that they are no longer with us. If you or someone you know is coping with loss heading into the holiday season, here are a few tips that may help guide you through the next few weeks.

Honor old traditions that bring you joy

Keep your loved one’s memory present by honoring traditions that you built together. Maybe your dad always dressed up like Santa for the family or your grandmother baked her famous blueberry pie. Honor them by continuing the traditions. Maybe it is time to pass the Santa costume on to a new family member or bake your grandma’s famous recipe together.

Create new traditions

While it’s important to honor old traditions, creating new traditions can also be healing when experiencing holidays without your loved one. It is normal for feelings of guilt or sadness to arise. Make space to process your emotions and to remember that new traditions and memories will never replace all of the beautiful moments you shared.

Set boundaries

There is no “right” way to participate in the holidays. There may be pressure to push through and attend all celebrations, but ultimately, the choice is up to you. Consider what feels right for you and let your family and friends know ahead of time. Try to find a balance between engaging with your loved ones without pushing yourself before you are ready.

Reflect on what you are feeling

Grieving during the holidays can be particularly painful. Feelings are magnified and it can be difficult to process so many competing emotions. If you experience happiness, try to allow it to coexist with the grief instead of pushing it away. You can enjoy certain holiday traditions and moments while still missing your loved one and wishing you could celebrate with them. Be kind to yourself and create space to process what you are feeling.

Find healthy ways to manage your emotions

Heading into the holiday season, create a list of coping skills you can refer to when you are overwhelmed. Keep the list handy to support you in moments of distress. You can practice mindful breathing techniques, listen to a calming song, take a walk, or drink a cold glass of water to calm your nerves. Writing the list is a wonderful way to reflect on healthy ways to cope and prepare yourself for the hard feelings that may come up.

Share your feelings with friends and family

When we lose someone we love, it is easy to feel alone. Instead of isolating yourself, seek support from your community. Opening up to your family and friends can help you sort through your complicated emotions and make you feel seen. If the holidays are particularly challenging for you, it may be helpful to seek additional support from a therapist or psychologist.

Give back

It is easy to focus exclusively on our own emotions when we are grieving. Expanding our perspective and giving back to those in need can also help to alleviate our own sadness. Joy is contagious. When we help others, we feel good about ourselves and grateful for all we have.

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If you are feeling especially low this holiday season, be kind to yourself. The holidays can dredge up many complicated emotions. Everybody needs to find their own ways to cope, and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to approach the holidays after loss. Give yourself grace as you navigate this new season of your life.

Photo by Sixteen Miles Out on Unsplash