COPING WITH GRIEF DURING THE HOLIDAYS
the season to be jolly, to deck the halls, to experience great joy with
family and friends. Yet for some people, this holiday season may be a
time of sadness, of grieving because of the loss of a loved one due to
death or a broken relationship, the loss of a job, the lack of money to
travel to be with family, the loss of a home, or the many other reasons
people can feel pain during the holidays. Sometimes the grief is new and
raw, other times, it’s old and familiar, although no less painful.
contrast between the outward trappings of the holidays and your inner
feelings of grief can be so great that people may not know how to get
through the holidays. Many of their friends and family may not know how
to support them.
often avoid others who are grieving because they don’t know what to say
or do to help. If you want to support someone who’s grieving, ask how
best to comfort him. Does he want company? To talk about his loss to
someone who will just listen?
the worst part of the holidays is the dread leading up to them. The
actual day might not be as bad as you feared, and might, instead, be a
good day—or at least parts of it are. A loss can make you focus on and
feel grateful for who and what you do have. Therefore, it’s important to
take some time during a holiday to appreciate the people who care about
your intuition about how to celebrate the holidays. Don’t let someone
else (no matter how well meaning) tell you what to do. Whether you
celebrate or not, go away or stay home, simplify or go all out, should
be up to you (although you need to take into consideration the needs of
other family members.)
a family meeting to discuss traditions, finances, duties, and feelings.
Given the limitations of time, energy, and money, figure out what will
bring the most peace and satisfaction to all involved. Divvy up what
each person will do.
family members might want to be part of a crowd because they don’t want
to feel alone. Others will want some quiet time on the holiday. Neither
choice is right or wrong. The personal preference needs to be
respected. So if someone wants to go to her room or take a solitary walk
in the midst of the chaos, then respect that. Or just invite friends
and family over for a short time.
you’re grieving, let people know ahead of time how you think you’ll be
feeling and how they can best support you. For example, if you’re not up
to cooking a big dinner, but would still like to get together, have
everyone bring a dish. If you can only tolerate others for an hour
instead of the whole day like normal, be clear about the time
boundaries. Talk about how you’d like people to support you if you’re
emotional. For example, do they give you a hug, pretend not to notice
the tears running down your cheeks, or talk to you about shared
ways to help others. No matter how much pain you’re in, giving to
others can lift your spirits for a while, or at least give you a feeling
of purpose. Sometimes seeing the plight of others put your troubles in
if you’re scraping the bottom of the financial barrel, you can still be
of service. You help an elderly person put up (and take down) his or
her holiday decorations, serve food at a soup kitchen, babysit a
neighbor’s children so she can go Christmas shopping, clean out your
closet and take your unneeded clothes and shoes to a shelter or other
charitable organization. Shovel the snow from the walkway of an elderly
or disabled person so he or she can get out. Visit a convalescent home
or a veteran’s hospital to visit those who are often forgotten during
excess alcohol. Eat fairly healthy. (It’s almost impossible to eat
completely healthy. Besides you’d miss out on some of the fun.)
Exercise, even if it’s going for a walk. Get as much sleep as possible.
Take a good multi-vitamin/mineral supplement and extra vitamin C and D
to keep your immune system strong. Take an Omega three supplement, such
as Krill or Salmon oil to keep your brain healthy. Although this is good
advice for everyone during the holidays, it’s especially important for
those who grieve.
Debra Holland, M.S., Ph.D.,
is a psychotherapist and corporate crisis/grief counselor. She worked
with American Airlines after 9-11, counseled victims of the Metrolink
train wreck in 2002, volunteered as a mental health relief worker after
Hurricane Katrina, and counseled victims during and after the 2008
Dr. Debra is the author of the Essential Guide to Grief and Grieving which is available at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.
strikes everyone--men and women, young and old, rich and poor--at some
point in life. But knowing others have gone through similar emotions
does little to lessen mourning when you’re reeling from loss. How do you
cope with grief and work through it? How do you help a child or other
loved one find the way back from their pain?
The Essential Guide
to Grief and Grieving offers help and hope in coming to terms with loss
and healing its wounds. Grief counselor Debra Holland explains the
relationship between loss and grief, shares how others have worked
through their own losses, and offers reassurance that what you’re
feeling as you mourn is normal.