Surviving holiday grief
Essential tips for surviving holiday grief

7 DAYS OF HEALING : DAY 3

Surviving holiday grief can be incredibly difficult. While twinkling lights, colorful decorations, and festivities usually illicit holiday cheer for others, they also serve as a painful reminder of loss. Although the holiday season is a happy occasion, it can also remind us of the loved ones no longer present to share in the laughter and joy of the holiday season. Increased sadness, feeling a need to isolate, and the inability to get into the holiday spirit are normal when grieving, especially during the first year of mourning. Understanding these helpful tips may be the difference between surviving or thriving this holiday season.

There will be triggers

Carolers going door to door singing Christmas hymns or holiday music playing on the radio may drum up memories of your grandma humming Christmas tunes while cooking up holiday favorites or mom and dad dancing around the house hanging stockings with care. Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas" takes on a different meaning when all your heart desires is one more kiss from your beloved under the mistletoe. A trigger can appear at any time, whether it's the first year or ten years later. It's the memories that will never be what we most struggle with. The sooner you embrace the unpredictability of the grieving process, the more in control you'll feel and better equipped you'll be to surviving holiday grief.

Take a moment to pause.

Don't feel inclined to participate in celebrating for the sake of others if your heart's not in it. The hustle and bustle of life is already overwhelming at times without the added layer and complexities of grieving. Extend yourself some grace. Someone else can host dinner or bring a dessert to the family gathering this year. Delegate tasks and partake in much-needed self-care practices that relax the mind and reduce stress. If skipping the holidays is not an option, take momentary breaks to reflect and process.  If skipping the holidays is not an option, take momentary breaks to reflect and process. Have an exit plan ready when things get too heavy and escaping seems more comfortable than socializing.

Distractions can be healthy.

Despite popular belief, the right distractions can be beneficial if used appropriately. Everyday mundane things like work, grocery shopping, and school projects provide a sense of normalcy and a familial tie to our past life before grief and loss set in. The distraction could involve focusing on your children's activities or prioritizing their interests over your own. Taking up a new hobby or revisiting a passion you once held are good ways to redirect without numbing or burying your grief.

It's ok to be happy.

Many mourners believe that the only way to grieve is through constant sadness and tears. There may be self-imposed guilt at the expense of experiencing moments of joy. The reality is grief is not a one-size-fits-all experience. A moment can bring a range of emotions - from happiness to sadness. 

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The holidays are a time for love, giving, and celebrating. Never feel bad for getting into the spirit. Being festive, even if momentarily, doesn't diminish or invalidate your loss. It's merely an example of how intricate the human experience is. Give gifts, unwrap presents, tell your friends and family you love them, create new memories or any combination of things that ward off misery and despair. 

Remember the reason for the season.

Regardless of religion, charity and family are universal truths behind the holidays. Redirect your focus on the reason behind why we celebrate shifts our perspective. Volunteer your time to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, churches or anywhere where there are those in need. 

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