The Holiday Season 2022 has officially started! Happy Holidays, everyone … especially to our readers who may be grieving.
Listen. Everyone experiences grief differently. But grieving the loss of a loved one is especially hard during the holiday season. Try as you might to remain upbeat and festive, you can’t help but notice the empty chair at the table. And it doesn’t really matter if it’s your first holiday without your loved one or your tenth. When that wave of grief hits, it feels like a punch to the chest.
The holiday season is for spending time with family, reminiscing, and making new memories. That’s why we tend feel our grief more acutely at this time. All those strolls down memory lane remind us of the loved ones we’ve lost. And that makes us feel awful, even as we enjoy the company of those loved ones still here.
So, if you’re grieving and your emotions are all over the place these days, you’re not alone. It’s both understandable and totally normal. Don’t feel bad for feeling bad. That’s just how grief works, and you have to go through it to get through it, if you know what I mean.
Here are a few tips for coping with grief during this holiday season (Source: Vitas Health Care).
- Set realistic expectations for yourself. Remember things are different this year, so go easy on yourself. Consider not taking on all of the holiday tasks you’re used to and scaling back a bit. Your loved ones will understand if you’re not up to cooking an entire dinner for 20 this year. They’ll also understand if you need help, whether it’s with shopping, cooking, wrapping, or hosting. Let someone else do the heavy lifting this year if you’re not really up to it.
- Surround yourself with people who love and support you. You may be tempted to burrow under your covers and isolate yourself until after the New Year but try not to do this. I know it’s hard but communicate with those closest to you and let them know how you feel. Inform them of any changes to your holiday routine so that they’re aware and can adjust. Most importantly, keep those lines of communication open so that your loved ones can love on you and support you through your grief.
- Don’t cancel the whole season! I know it’s tempting but don’t cancel everything. It’s ok to avoid some circumstances or events if you’re truly not up to it. But don’t totally isolate yourself. Make some time for solitude but balance it with planned social activities.
- Allow yourself to feel “All the Feels”. You’re going to feel joy, sadness, anger, and everything in between, so let yourself feel them. Experiencing joy or laughter during your bereavement doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten your loved one. It means you’re human and still living! Trust me. Your loved one would want you to be happy.
- Give back. You can draw a lot of comfort from doing for others. If you’re in a position to do so, making a donation or gift in memory of your loved one is a wonderful way to honor them. After all, doing for others is an instant mood lifter. It doesn’t have to be monetary or material gifts, either. Sometimes, the best gift we can give is the gift of our time. Consider volunteering with a charity like a soup kitchen, or your favorite church charity. Or maybe invite a guest who might otherwise be alone for the holidays to join your family. Giving back gives back in so many ways.
- Take care of yourself. Self-care may seem like a cliche these days, but for real. Take care of yourself, Sis. Enjoy that fattening holiday fare with moderation. Try to get in some exercise several times a week, as exercise is a proven antidote to depression. Treat yourself as well as you treat others and indulge in something frivolous just for YOU!
Finally, if you’re really struggling with your grief, please reach out and seek professional help. If you or someone you know is in real crisis, please reach out to the hotline by dialing 988 in the U.S. Help is available.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS, EVERYONE!