When the Holidays Mean Pain: Grieving During the Holiday Season
The holidays are right around the corner. How could we miss the reminders? Inserts of coupons for Halloween candy filling the Sunday newspaper. Noticeably increasing numbers of television commercials showing families gathered around tables laden with roasted turkeys, yams and cranberries. Christmas jingles piped over the sound system at the supermarket (in October).
For some people, this time of year brings a sense of lovely anticipation: of gifts and togetherness, delicious feasts and cheer. But what about those of us who have lost a loved one? How do we get through the season intact when reminders of family traditions surround us?
While these holiday cues may trigger anxiety when we’re struggling with a loss, we can use them to our advantage. They are a good indicator that it’s time to put some thought into how we want to approach the season and gives us a chance to mindfully put a plan in place.
Here are some ways to mentally and emotionally prepare for the holidays:
Be mindful of your mood during the holiday season. Your emotions are a powerful tool that helps guide you and tells you when you’ve overextended yourself or pushed past your personal boundaries. Remember to touch base with your feelings, validate them, and communicate them to others. This is an important part of self-care.
Some questions to consider:
How do you care for yourself during the holidays?
What triggers can you identify in advance that might be challenging during the holidays?
Who can you turn to for support, and who might be difficult to be around?
Marnee Reiley is a Marriage and Family Therapist Registered Intern in Irvine, CA. Certified in Grief and Bereavement Counseling, Marnee is honored to work with couples, individuals, and families with adjustment to life transitions, communication, and healthy adaptation to loss and change. Please visit her website at www.YourOCTherapist.com to learn more.
Thank you for your great blog. It is a great reminder for the upcoming holidays.
Thank you for your nice comments. I hope that the holiday season is a meaningful one for you.
My father died on New Years Eve of 1996. The first few years were really hard. I could not and would not give myself permission to celebrate or be happy. I do now. Thank God.
Hi Marnee –
Wow this is a great blog post, full a really good practical information. The information you have shared can be used for everyday life. How we care for our selves, what triggers us to feel good or bad about our selves, who do you turn to when you need good advise or support. The holidays are such a great time, yet can be so fast paced and overwhelming. If you have been impacted by a death, that makes the season so difficult on top of all the expectations. For my self, I have been TRYING, to keep working out, eat well and get plenty of sleep. I have tried to pace my self and realize that I don’t have to be everything to everyone. I really appreciate your words of wisdom, they are a great reminder for all of us.
Happy Holidays to you! XO
Thank you so much for your reflections on this topic. I agree that self-care is crucial, be it while we are grieving, during the holidays, or any time. Changing our behavior (through better eating, exercise, and sleep) is fantastic, but so is the attention to our thoughts (such as your realization that you don’t have to be everything to everyone). Have a wonderful holiday season.
All the best,
In your profession of Family Therapist must be very Emotional and SPIRITED and special Person
to be able to Counsel Grieving Family’s. You must go thru some unexpected Situation and may God
be present during these times. Your Advise has remind me what My Children & I went thru the first
year of my Husband Death, or any Holidays. Must of the time I go thru motion but memories we had
come thru and I SMILE and make a Toast Here to you My Dear. Then enjoy the Holiday’s I feel we all
do things the only way each of us can MANAGE our BEREAVEMENT. Also I had join a group that really
help me, they were Call the New Beginning ‘s and they turn out to be my very Good Friends, Bless you in all that you do. Thank you for our preperation that is coming.
Very Best to You.
Thank you so much for your heartfelt comments. It is true what you say: we all do employ different coping skills to be able to fluctuate between feeling our grief and having some respite. How fantastic that you found a group that you found supportive and helpful.
Best wishes to you,
Thank you for this very informative and useful post.
I few weeks ago I thought I would be using these tips to get through the first holiday season without my grandmother.
Fortunately, she is at home and doing a little better. It is looking more like I will get to enjoy this beautiful season with her. It will be extra special!
I will certainly reference your tips when the time comes.
How wonderful to be able to appreciate this time even more. Thank you for sharing with us!