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Dealing with Grief During the Holiday Season

This year's holiday season, changes related to the pandemic will add to the stress of grief and loss, e.g., wearing masks, social-distancing. The holiday season is a joyous time for some, but it is a struggle for those who have lost someone significant. As it is for most people experiencing loss, the holiday season was the most painful time. During this time, you must take time to care for yourself, including spending time outside, seeking social support, and engaging in relaxing activities. I cannot emphasize the importance of taking care of yourself by permitting yourself to feel disappointed and upset about this highly anxious and uncertain time.

If you're wondering how to get through the holidays this year without your loved one, these strategies will not be solutions but will help with easing the pain:

Grieving is a part of your healing journey:

Time doesn't heal the pain associated with a loss. Grief is the process by which you heal. Understanding that experiencing the problem—rather than continually trying to escape it—can help you feel better in the long-term. I encourage you not to pretend that the holidays do not exist or numb your pain with other alternatives. Eventually, the holiday season will get more comfortable, but only if you allow yourself to experience the grief of going through them without your loved one. Please permit yourself to feel those raw emotions during this time.

Implementing healthy boundaries:

If attending traditional holiday events such as Christmas tree lighting etc., brings forth painful memories, it is ok to say no. People may try to convince you to participate in events during this time, but if it is a trigger, please protect your peace and mental well-being. While grieving, it is essential to take care of yourself first and not please others. You certainly do not have to force yourself to face every holiday event or celebratory tradition.

Focus on What You Can Control

There may be many things that can trigger you during the holiday season, such as hearing holiday music on the radio, holiday commercials, and seeing holiday décor in stores. Although you cannot prevent those things from taking place, you are still able to take control of your emotions. Lessening the heartache can help with increasing your ability to enjoy the holidays. It is ok to be happy during this time. Do things that will bring you to cheer during this difficult time. This is a time to take lessons to heart and work on adjusting our expectations and preparing for things to be different this year, and in many cases, challenging. It can help to talk about these losses, sharing what we are missing most this holiday season.

Starting New Traditions

It's ok to start new traditions or incorporate old traditions into the new reality. Create a unique way to honor the memory of your loved one during the holiday season. Whether it's lighting a candle, cooking their favorite dish, or having a moment of silence to honor their memory. The holiday season is also the season of giving, and what better way to uplift your spirits during this time than being kind to others. Although COVID-19 has placed specific stipulations in place, donating to a family in need, making cards for those in the nursery home, or volunteering with local organizations to make this holiday joyful.

Although this time may be challenging for most, our support from those close to us is essential. Be sure to take care of yourself and process those emotions and feelings effectively. It's ok not to be ok; professional help is here to help you along the way.

From my family to yours,

Happy Holidays J

-Tiara Watford, MSW, LCSW, BCTMH

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