Managing Grief around the Holidays
If you’ve done any funeral planning this past year or buried a loved one, the holidays are going to be a difficult time. No matter how well you might be handling your grief, there’s something about the holiday season that tends to throw people into a tailspin of bereavement. Memories tend to rise up in a big way, and it can be difficult amid all the hustle and bustle of good cheer to find the support you need to make it through.
Among well-wishers pushing you to “move on,” the general stress that always arises this time of year, and the spirit of a season meant to bring joy (but which often does the exact opposite), it’s important to carve out a place for your grief.
- Expect a Change in Your Feelings: Maybe you’ve been working through your grief and have come to a kind of acceptance lately. Maybe you’re still incredibly angry and spend part of every day in tears. No matter where you are on your journey, expect there to be a change. Feelings of isolation and loneliness are common this time of year, and it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the warning signs for depression. The important thing is to recognize that ALL feelings are okay, and that the increased intensity of them is only natural around the holidays.
- Talk to the People in Your Life: Because of how busy the holiday season is, your friends and family may not take the time to remember how difficult you will find the holidays. Instead of expecting them to notice or to know how to help, sit down and talk. Ask for support and understanding. Remind them of your struggles. Tell them it’s okay to talk about it. (They might be afraid to introduce the subject on their own.)
- Take Care of Yourself: Although the last thing you probably want to do is put on your boot and coats and go outside for a walk, it’s a good idea to get plenty of exercise, rest, water, and good food. Don’t let the winter weather prevent you from getting outside and participating in the world. Now is a good time to take that yoga class you’ve been talking about or to join a gym.
- Get Away: Not everyone will benefit from a week in Hawaii for Christmas, but for some people, the change of scene is healing. If confronting the familiar traditions alone is too much, get away for the season. Visit relatives, go on a vacation, start new traditions somewhere else. Getting away from the winter weather might be enough to get your head in a better place.
- Feel Free to Say No: If you can’t handle the idea of the holiday pageant full of happy kids, don’t go. If you’d rather not shop on Black Friday because the crowds make you anxious, say no. If you want to be alone instead of staying with family, do just that. Be as selfish as you need to be—and try not to feel guilty afterwards. Taking care of yourself is the most important thing this year.
You can also talk to your doctor or grief counselor for more support. Many books and groups exist out there to help grieving families cope with the holidays, and there’s nothing wrong with asking for a little extra help this time of year.