How to Cope With Loss Over the Holidays
The holiday season is often thought of as “the most wonderful time of the year,” and for some, this may be true. While the holidays are full of family and friends, good food, laughter, traditions, and joy, they can also reignite feelings of loss, sadness, and guilt.
The holidays are typically a season full of spending time with those you love, family traditions, and creating memories; none of this is the same after you have lost someone you love.
Coping with this loss during the holidays can be exceptionally difficult and a time of confusion, sadness, and wishing those you have lost could be with you. The holidays can also be a time of increased guilt for having fun even when those you love aren’t there anymore.
Even if you haven’t lost someone you love, the holidays can be a time of increased anxiety, depression, and the “holiday blues.” Coping with these emotions can be complex and confusing. Here are a couple of ideas to help alleviate these feelings and help you cope with this loss.
Don’t Avoid Your Feelings
We often try to suppress feelings of loss and grief, so we aren’t a “burden” or bringing the mood down to those around us. While the holidays can be fun, they can also magnify some of these feelings of grief and loss, and that is okay.
While suppressing and hiding from these emotions may be done with good intentions, constantly suppressing these feelings can be unhealthy for you. When you feel grief, hurt, or loss, it is okay to let yourself feel these things.
It is essential to remember that it is possible to find joy and feel grief simultaneously. It is okay to have fun at the event, but also miss your loved ones and wish they could be with you. These feelings are normal, and allowing yourself to feel these emotions is a good thing.
Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to feel the emotions of the holidays, no matter what they are. Being patient and understanding can help you cope during this challenging time.
These emotions come from a place of love for the person you have lost. Take the time you need to feel these emotions.
Honor Those You Miss
It can be hard to have fun during the holidays because you may feel guilty that those you have lost aren’t with you anymore.
To help yourself manage these emotions, you may be able to find ways to honor them during this holiday season. You could remember those you have lost by putting out a stocking for them, talking about your favorite memories of them, or lighting a candle to remind you of their light. Honoring them is personal, and you should remember them in whatever way feels right for you and your family. You may even want to continue to perform old traditions that brought them joy while they were able to celebrate this season with you.
Doing these things can help you remember them and their spirit. The decision of how to honor those you have lost is profoundly personal and will look different for everyone. It is important you find a way that helps you feel connected to them and then honor them in your own important way.
Create New Traditions
While it can be helpful to continue to honor those you have lost through old traditions, it can also be beneficial to create new traditions that you can enjoy throughout the holiday season.
For some, this may be hard and cause feelings of guilt for moving on. It is important to remember that you can value old traditions and memories while also making new ones. Creating new traditions and memories does not mean you don’t love and miss them, but it is a healthy way of coping with feelings of loss.
Creating new traditions and happy memories around the holidays with those you love can help you move forward, find joy, and manage feelings of grief and loss.
Plan Ahead for Hard Moments
While some parts of the holiday season may not magnify feelings of grief and sadness, specific things likely will. It can be beneficial to plan for these challenging moments of increased despair and surround yourself with people you love and trust.
Each person will have different hard moments and times, which is okay. Planning can help you feel less empty and alone during these challenging moments. For some, this may mean choosing someone new to cut the turkey, sing the carols, or coordinate the Secret Santa gift exchange.
These emotions are deeply personal, which means planning for these times can help alleviate added negative feelings as you learn to cope through healthy means.
During the holiday season, it often feels like there is a party, gathering, or concert every night. While this can be fun and invite the exciting spirit of this time of year, it can also be challenging to face these emotions all the time.
Go into the holidays understanding that it is okay, and often good to say “no” to some things. Create boundaries for yourself to take care of yourself and your mental health.
Setting boundaries may mean saying no to a gathering, which is okay. Create boundaries for yourself and those you love, and then do your best to stick to them.
Take Time for Yourself
This time of year is a whirlwind. There are a million things to do at every minute of the day (and of the night). While these are often good things, you must take time for yourself.
This time for yourself can be something you set boundaries for and protect. It can also be when you allow yourself to feel these feelings for loss, grief, and sadness. This time for yourself often provides you strength while moving forward.
You should do something that makes you feel full and recharged when you take time for yourself. During this time, you could do anything from going on a walk outside, listening to music, reading a book, talking to someone you love and trust, exercising, or anything else that helps you feel at peace.
Whatever it is, make sure to value this time and include it in your schedule. This time for yourself should help give you the strength to keep enjoying and going through the holiday season.
Serve Those Around You
While serving someone may not sound the most appealing when you are hurting, serving those around you can help you cope with your feelings of sadness.
Serving others or volunteering to help can decrease anxiety, increase self-confidence, and help you feel more purposeful in your actions.
Your service does not have to include any grand gestures, and can be as simple as you would like. A couple of ideas of simple service projects include:
- Text someone you love and telling them why you love them
- Bring a neighbor treats
- Call an elderly person in your life
- Make dinner for someone who needs it
- Give your full attention to someone when talking to them
- Volunteer at your local soup kitchen or homeless shelter
- Smile and say hi to someone new
- Give a gift to someone in need
Even doing small things like these can elevate your mood and help you feel purposeful during this time of year. Helping those around you can help you feel less lonely while also helping invite the holiday spirit into your home.
Reach Out When you Need It
Finally, don’t be scared to reach out to those around you. The holidays can be difficult and can cause complex emotions to arise at any given time, especially when you are trying to cope with the loss of a loved one.
When you feel like you need it, reach out to those around you. Contact a trusted friend or family member and talk. There are people who love you and who want to help you. Reaching out is a sign of strength and can make a real difference.
At Jackson House, we want to help you cope with this loss and grief you may feel. When you need help, never hesitate to contact us.
The holidays can be challenging, especially when emotions are magnified and loss is felt even stronger than expected. Hopefully, implementing some of these strategies can help you find ways to cope with loss during the holiday season.
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