Dealing with grief during the holidays  

The holiday season can bring a wide array of emotions, and for many, that includes grief.   

Grief is a profound sorrow, especially one that is caused by someone’s death.    

“The key thing to remember is grief looks different for each and every one,” says Behavioral Health provider Sara Jarrett, LMSW. “We have all lived our own experiences. Because of this, and because the circumstances surrounding each person’s passing vary, none of us experience grief in the exact same way.”   

Grief can be caused by many things. It could be the first holiday season without a loved one. You may have recently finalized a divorce, and your children will spend the holiday with an ex-spouse. Perhaps you’ve moved, or other family members have moved, and you won’t be together as you were in previous years. Maybe your family is alive and well, but you’ve had to set a healthy boundary to protect your peace, so you’re spending the holidays without them.   

No matter the situation, grief is heavy and unpredictable. It has no timeline, and healing doesn’t always happen as quickly as we’d like.   

The following nine points can help you deal with grief during the holiday, but there’s no wrong or right way.    

Trust that grief is part of healing    

Time does not heal the pain associated with loss; It is what we do with the time that matters. Grief is a process by which we heal. Experiencing the pain, rather than trying to escape it, can help us feel better in the long term.   

Set healthy boundaries  

We don’t have to force ourselves to face every holiday event or celebratory tradition. If attending a family dinner or participating in the office gift swap will bring too many painful memories this year – be willing to say no. Other people may try to convince you and tell you what you should do, but it’s okay to say no.   

Focus on what you can control   

We can’t control many things about the holidays, such as being subjected to Christmas music in waiting rooms or hearing co-workers discuss holiday plans. There are some things we can control. We can plan ahead and acknowledge within ourselves that this time of year is hard. We can make a list of things that make us happy and find ways to incorporate those things into our now.  

Plan ahead  

Often, the anticipation over how hard something will be is worse than the event. While Thanksgiving dinner may be only two hours long, we can easily spend weeks dreading it. Instead, creating a simple plan for getting through the holiday could be helpful.    

Allow yourself to feel a range of emotions

The holidays can bring many different emotions. You might feel joy, guilt, and sadness all within a few minutes. Allow yourself to feel those emotions without judging yourself. Don’t judge yourself for feeling happy or laughing. It’s okay to feel however you feel.

Find a way to honor your memories 

Find a special way to honor the person you have lost. For some, that may mean setting an extra spot for them at dinner. If a tradition is ending for you, journal how things used to be or share those memories with loved ones.

Create new traditions  

Don’t be afraid to start new traditions this year. It’s okay to think outside the box to alter old traditions and make them work with this new phase of life.   

Do something kind for others  

It can be helpful to a grieving person’s spirit if we find a way to help others. Finding a way to serve a purpose in other’s lives can remind us we have more to give to the world. Feeling connected and part of something is always important.    

Ask for help  

Whether a loved one has passed, a tradition has concluded, or our perspective around relationships has changed, we don’t have to do it alone. It’s okay to reach out to a friend and say, “I need you.” It’s okay to sell someone, “I don’t know how to do this anymore.” When we need help, we need to ask for help from a friend or a professional.     

Talking to a behavioral health provider can be helpful when dealing with grief. Make an appointment with a CHC/SEK Behavioral Health Provider by calling 620-231-9873. 

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