The holidays are always magical and full of joy, right? Wrong. For those of us who are coping with the loss of a close friend or family member, this time of year can be very difficult. If you have experienced a loss, the holidays may lose their sparkle, and you may feel sad, frustrated, or anxious. It is common to feel ashamed about feeling unhappy and to wonder if there is something wrong with you. You are not alone. For many people, especially those who have experienced a significant loss, the holidays can be painful and exhausting, and it can be hard to get into the holiday spirit. If you have lost someone to illness, counseling from a family counselor or medical family therapist may be helpful. Below are some strategies for coping with grief during the holidays:
Practice radical acceptance. Radical acceptance means accepting something completely, without fighting it, getting angry at it, or trying to change it. It is normal to feel sadness, anger, disappointment, happiness, guilt, anxiety, and jealously during the holiday season. Fighting these feelings or judging yourself for experiencing them only makes these emotions more intense. How would this holiday season be different if you acknowledged and accepted where you are today instead of trying to change reality?
Limit social media. Social media is a great way to connect with friends and family that we might not see during the holidays. However, sometimes, social media makes it easy for us to compare our lives with the literally picture perfect lives of our friends and family. After a loss, your friends’ social media updates may seem even happier and more joyful while your life may seem bleak. It is important to remember that the images on these sites are just a single moment in time. Oftentimes, I ask myself, “What’s happening just outside this picture? What may have happened before this picture was taken and what could have happened afterwards?”
Honor your loss. Light a candle, decorate an ornament, or share stories about your loved one. This might be a good time to create a new tradition that celebrates family members who have passed. If this seems overwhelming, remember that you can recognize your loved ones in small ways. There is no “right” way to honor a loss. Always do what feels right for you and your family.
Engage your community. During the holiday season, our communities are buzzing with excitement and energy, but our grief may keep us inside, away from the world. Though it may feel as though you are the only one grieving during the holiday season, you are not alone. Engaging your community through volunteer work is a great way to combat isolation and connect with other people. In addition, volunteering may be a new way for you to celebrate the season of giving and honor your loved one.
It is normal to feel a wide range of emotions during the holiday season, especially if you are grieving. If you notice that despite your best efforts, your sadness and anxiety persist, you may want to speak to a family counselor to better understand your grief and find healthy ways of coping with your loss.
How do you honor loved ones who have passed away? Which family traditions have become more meaningful after your loss? What advice do you have for navigating the holiday season after experiencing a loss? Comment below!
Lindsey Hoskins & Associates provides individual, couple, and family therapy in downtown Bethesda, MD. Call us at (301) 200-5290 or email [email protected] to discuss how we might be able to help you improve your life and relationships.