Holidays can be stressful times. Everywhere we look, we see commercials, store displays, and reminders that this is supposed to be a time of joy. Families and friends gather together to celebrate and enjoy each others company, exchange gifts, and share meals. For those who are experiencing illness, loss, or grief, however, the holidays may feel anything but merry. Feelings of sadness, depression, or anger are not unusual when living with the process of grief. How can you cope, then, when it feels like everyone around you is overflowing with happiness while your own heart is breaking? Here are some tips to help you through the holidays and beyond.
- Do away with the “shoulds.” There is no one way to celebrate the holidays, and frankly, most families are not like the ones depicted on greeting cards or television shows. When you are feeling down, it is easy to fall into the “how things should be” trap. Instead, find what things in your life you can embrace, and let go of comparing or feeling you “should” be feeling a certain way.
- Show yourself extra kindness. Many people easily demonstrate loving kindness to others, but when it comes to caring for themselves it can feel difficult. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, nutrition, and self-care. Do something nice for yourself every chance you get.
- Don’t isolate. Isolation is different from alone time, which we all need from time to time. If you find yourself avoiding others completely, not wanting to leave the house, or feeling like no one can relate to you, take some small steps to reach out and connect. Have coffee with a friend, make a phone call to say hello, or attend a workshop on something of interest to you.
- Set boundaries. Don’t take on more than you can handle. It is okay to say no sometimes; there is no need to prove your resilience and strength right now. Pace yourself with activities and tasks if you need to.
- Finally, accept the support of others. If you feel emotional or sad, lean on your loved ones and allow them to be there for you. If signs of depression and grief are troubling you, you can also seek the help of a qualified counselor – preferably one trained in the grief process. There are likely to be support groups in your area as well to support those struggling with loss during the holiday season.
Grief is a process. It ebbs and flows, and it takes time to move through. Be gentle with yourself, and allow others to assist you. Above all, know that you are not alone in your pain. Grief and loss turn our worlds upside down. There is hope and help to get you through to the other side.