Coping with the Holidays

Published in Wellness, Behavioral Health Services

The holiday season can be one of the most difficult times for people who have experienced the death of a loved one. Instead of a time of joy, family togetherness, gift giving and thankfulness, there can be a renewed sense of grief during the holidays, resulting in feelings of sadness, loss and emptiness.

Although there are no simple guidelines that will take away such feelings, Dr. Alan Wolfelt, Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition in Fort Collins, Colorado, offers the following suggestions for making life more tolerable:

Talking About Your Grief

Ignoring your grief won’t make the pain go away. By talking about it openly with caring friends and relatives, you will help yourself heal.

Be Tolerant of Your Physical/Psychological Limits

Feelings of loss may decrease your energy level. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Try to lower your expectations about being at your peak during the holiday season.

Eliminate Unnecessary Stress

Don’t over-extend yourself. Try not to isolate yourself, but be sure to allow time for yourself.

Be with Supportive, Comforting People

Identify friends and relatives who will allow you to express your feelings – both happy and sad. Include the name of the person who has died in your conversation.

Plan Ahead for Family Gatherings and Do What is Right for You During the Holidays

Decide what family traditions you would like to continue, and the new ones you would like to begin, following the death of someone you loved. Structure your holiday time and focus on what you personally want to do, rather than going along with the plans of well-meaning friends and family.

Embrace Your Treasury of Memories

Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after the death of someone loved. Share them with family and friends, instead of ignoring them. If your memories bring laughter, smile. If you memories bring sadness, it’s all right to cry.

Express Your Faith

During the holidays, you may a find a renewed sense of faith or discover a new set of beliefs. If your faith is important, you may want to attend a holiday service.

Love Yourself

Be patient with yourself. And allow yourself to be surrounded by loving, caring people.

Consider Changing the Focus of Your Holiday Celebration

The time you open packages, or the time of the holiday meal.

Buy Tickets to the Ballet or Theater

One for yourself and one more as a special Christmas gift from you to a friend.

Start a New Tradition

As simple as discarding an old recipe and trying a new one, a different entrée at your holiday meal, volunteering before/after the holiday season – whatever you can comfortably do.