Grief and loss during the holidays
Family, togetherness and celebrations are main themes during the holidays. As we grow up we are consistently told that the holidays are times for connecting with those we love. We have traditions that are followed year in and year out. The same foods are shared, gifts are exchanged and our homes are decorated. Walking into any store with the holiday music and decorations reminds us of the holidays.
These traditions or customs can feel like an injury if we have experienced grief or loss through death, divorce or illness. It reminds us of the good times and the togetherness we will no longer share with the loved one. Watching others celebrate when feeling overwhelmed, lonely or sad can be very painful. Holidays force us to recognize, once again, how much our lives have changed .
Although grief and loss are part of life, it comes in many different ways. Many grief specialists have compared grief and loss to a ride on a roller coaster. To some it can be a frightening ride, to others it can produce anxiety at unpredictable times. It is the plunge into the unknown that overwhelms and isolates us.
Here are some strategies that may help you or someone you know that is experiencing grief and loss at this time,
Set realistic expectations for yourself. Remember that this year is different from years past. Ask yourself if you want to continue the traditions or customs of the past.
Start a new tradition. During this time of year, create a tradition to honor the loved one or past memories. Go out to dinner instead of creating an decorative and festive meal. Or schedule a trip with friends or family.
Surround yourself with those who love and support you. Share your feelings and memories with others who may also miss the traditions of the past.
Help someone else. Consider donating a gift in memory of your loved one. Invite friends who might otherwise be alone to your home. Offer your services and time to non-profits.
Give yourself time. The grieving process cannot be managed in a prescribed manner. Every individual has his/her own unique grief experience and may have different needs during the holidays.
Take care of yourself. Try to avoid the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Stay active. Keep a journal of your journey through grief and your recovery. Buy yourself something frivolous.
The most important thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to commemorate the holidays and to know that grief is a wild and crazy ride.
As once stated, “Grief is something you never really get over, but you put it in a place inside you and deal with it the way you have to,” Laura Branigan, singer and actress.
If you are interested in participating in a grief recovery group please contact me at (925) 550-0361.
Submitted by Nancy Resnikoff, M.A., LMFT, (Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist)