The holidays here, and for most, that means merriment and joy.
But if you've recently lost a loved one, the holidays can be really tough. Whether it's your grandmother, who always made the holidays special, or the loss of the child you've been waiting for, the holidays have a way of making the pain worse.
Coping with loss during the holidays is extremely difficult. Stacy Kaiser, editor of Live Happy and licensed psychotherapist, puts it like this, "The holiday season is a time when families tend to come together. If there are holes in your family due to a loss, your grief can be magnified over the holidays."
But there are ways to get through the holidays relatively unscathed. We've consulted with professionals to gather tips to get you through the holidays as you cope with your loss.
1. Accept It Will Be Tough
First of all, accept that the holidays are going to be difficult. "When we fight it, it prolongs and intensifies it," says Mark Henrick, a mental health professional and advocate in Toronto, Canada. "Let yourself grieve, let it be terrible, and feel the loss fully." Don't try to put on a happy façade and grind through the holidays like you normally would. Instead, work on accepting the reality of the situation and remember that it's okay to do things differently this year.
You might consider taking others up on their offers to help you. Let someone else do the shopping or the cooking. Perhaps a friend can take your kids to see Santa. You might choose smaller gatherings with close friends and family rather than large parties.
2. Surround Yourself With Loved Ones
When you're feeling down, it might be tempting to just cancel the holidays and hole up at home. Although it's okay to avoid certain situations or alter your plans, it's important to resist the urge to isolate yourself. Close family and friends can help you deal with the loss – especially if they're also going through that loss as well.
3. Talk It Out
Sharing memories can be an incredible source of comfort, so don't be afraid to share stories of your loved one if you feel ready. Remember that time you decorated the tree together? Share that story.
"Allow it to make you smile, or laugh or throw your hands in the air with exasperation like it did at the time. The more of these stories you tell aloud, especially early on, the more it will allow your mind to work through and adapt to the loss," says Henrick. Of course, if you need help talking it out, a trained counselor or therapist can help you.
4. Take Time for Self-Care
It seems like everyone let's self-care slip through the cracks during the holidays. That's why it's so important to put aside some time for yourself. Try things like exercise, warm baths, massages or meditation. Take the time to do whatever hobbies make you happy.
5. Find Gratitude
It may sound impossible, especially if you're feeling angry, but it's important to find gratitude. According to Dr. Kaiser, "Experts have determined that gratitude and grief go hand-in-hand. Though grief may never end, gratitude can help one accept and embrace a new chapter in life, as it provides a powerful source of healing during the grieving process."
To find gratitude, make a list of everything you're thankful for. Include things like ideas you learned from the person who passed away, or memories they gave you that will last your whole life. It can also be general things in your life that have gone well and that you're grateful for, like your own health (there's no reason to feel guilty for being healthy and alive), a steady job and the rest of your family.
Sometimes, coping with loss during the holidays can seem like an impossible feat. Just remember to be gentle and understanding with yourself – and remember that though it doesn't seem like it, eventually you will get back to feeling more like you and enjoying this time of year.
Do you find yourself having to explain the death of a family member to your child? We have 12 children's books that could help.