GRIEF AND THE HOLIDAYS
While the holidays can be cause for reunion and celebration, they may also be a reminder that those, who were close to you, are no longer present. While it is normal and natural to miss their absence, here are a few suggestions to help you cope with your grief during the holiday season.
Don’t Isolate Yourself
You may not feel like you want to associate with people during the holidays. Even if you must push yourself, do your best to participate in at least a few of the activities going on around you. By first acknowledging you don’t want to go out, or do something, allows you to validate your emotions and diffuse them rather than bury them. Then, by choosing to still do a few of those things, this allows you to push through and take back some of your personal power.
Don’t Get Too Busy
Getting out during the holidays is important but it can get a bit hectic. Be careful to create a manageable schedule, especially if you are not used to being extremely busy. Choose the activities you will enjoy most. Being over active can cause undue stress. Enjoy yourself!
Be Mindful of the Misuse of Alcohol or Food
As a young child you may have been conditioned to believe you could use food to cover up or push down your feelings. When you were upset you may have been told not to feel bad and were given a cookie or a mug of hot chocolate to help you to feel better. This distraction was most likely an unintentional teaching by those who loved or cared for you. We teach what we know and then learn from what we have experienced, observed, or heard from those around us. As you get older there may be a chance you might replace the cookie with overeating or the hot chocolate with drugs or alcohol in an attempt to mask your feelings of loneliness and sadness.
Talk About How You Are Feeling
Grieving people are not broken. They do not need to be fixed; they just want to be heard. In North America, many of us are very uncomfortable talking about death and grieving. As a result we want to empathize with our own stories, offer advice, or change the topic of conversation. It is very important, during the holidays especially, you have a friend you can trust to let you talk about your memories and feelings; a heart with ears.
Don’t Dwell On Talking About How You Are Feeling
While it is important to talk about how you are feeling, telling the same story over and over is not helpful. In fact, telling the same story over and over strengthens the peptides which crave this feeling of sadness. Take a moment, with a friend, to acknowledge how you are feeling, for example, “I really miss Bill right now” and then make a conscious effort to talk about something else. Your emotions want to be recognized but it is not helpful to dwell on them.
Recall Happy Memories
It is normal and natural to focus on the loss and the sadness of your grief. If you find you are focusing in this direction, take a movement to recall a positive memory of your loved one. For example a time they made you laugh, a special trip you took, etc. This allows your sad emotions to be replaced with a happier memory.
Identifying Your Sadness
During times of grief you may find you identify your sadness in time segments such as “I had a bad day” or “I had a bad week”. When you notice you are feeling sad try to realign the timeframe. For example, “I felt sad this morning” or “I had a rough evening”. This allows you to be open and to recognize other times, that day or week, where you did have an experience other than grief.
Grief and the Passage of Time
The first holiday after a loss can be the most painful for many. For some, the most difficult holiday can be two or three years down the road. Individuals who are waiting for time to ease the pain of loss may find the pain of grief increases with each passing year.
While Grief is Natural, It Does Not Have to be Permanent
The holidays provide a good time for you to monitor your grief. Whether it is the death of a loved one or the breakup of a romantic relationship, it is important to find helpful tools to assist you to discover, and recover, from your loss. Time can lessen the intensity of your pain. However, it is the actions you choose to take, within the time you have been given, which will allow you to move forward.
We have been socialized to “get stuff” and we are ill prepared for how to cope with “loss”. If the resources available to you have not helped, it is not because something is wrong with you. It is simply because of a lack of incorrect information.
The Grief Recovery Method® has successfully supported more than a half million people, around the world, in dealing with the impact of grief, offering a variety of resources: The Grief Recovery Handbook (all types of grief); Moving On (relationships); The Grief Recovery Method for Pet Loss (animals); and When Children Grieve (supporting children when they grieve). Having the support of a trained Grief Recovery Method Specialist assures you face these emotions with guidance: You are not alone.
Whatever method you choose, it is important to be aware….recovery is possible!
Tammy Adams is a Certified Grief Recovery Method Specialist supporting individuals Canada-wide in person or via the Internet. To learn more about The Grief Recovery Method please visit www.tadams.ca or contact Tammy for a free consultation.