The loss of a loved one is difficult at any time, but the holidays can be particularly hard. Family and friends move into center focus this time of year as we gather around the dinner table or the Christmas tree to celebrate. Meanwhile, holiday music, decorations, movies, and music all serve as unavoidable reminders of exactly how different this year will be to those past.
Grief is a normal and healthy process that we must all navigate after the loss of a loved one, but the pain can feel nearly unbearable at a time when everything else around us seems so unnaturally joyous by comparison. Fortunately, there are a few steps that can be taken to help us make it through this time of year, even in the absence of someone we love.
Accept the Natural Process of Grief
It is easy to get so caught up in concern over the holidays and how different they will be that we lose sight of how natural our feelings and this process are. Instead of focusing on how the holidays should feel, accept that the holiday season will be different from now on and that that’s okay. The first December following a loss will certainly be the hardest, but understand that gradually a sense of normalcy will return to this time of year and that, eventually, you will be able to look back on previous years with greater levels of fondness and less heartache.
Take Control of the Holidays Where You Can
Naturally, a certain level of holiday cheer from those around you will be unavoidable. Co-workers will discuss their upcoming plans, stores will feature decorations and cheery holiday music, and television shows will center largely around the season. However, there are many steps that you can take to minimize the impact that holidays have on your emotional wellbeing. If you are finding it exceptionally difficult to pull out the decorations or to attend parties, it is okay to skip over them this year. Allow yourself time to heal, and don’t feel the need to force yourself into taking part in normal holiday activities if you simply are not ready.
Do Something Special to Honor Your Loved One
Honoring the memory of a passed loved one can be a huge step in the grieving and healing process. While it can be all too easy to get caught up in the weight of their loss, try instead to honor their memory in a positive way. Spend time at a food shelter, make a donation to charity, or buy presents or food for an underprivileged family. Doing so can help bring about positive emotions surrounding the memory of your loved one, rather than focusing simply on their loss.
Seek Support to Cope with Grief
Regardless of the time of year, support to help cope with a loss can be a vital part of the grieving process. Having others who can understand your pain is invaluable during such a difficult time. Likewise, a professional such as a psychiatrist or therapist can provide resources and healthy coping strategies to make the process easier. Even if you do not have family or friends nearby, there are resources available to help. Contact a mental health professional in your area to learn more.
The holiday season tends to heighten our emotions, whether positive or negative. If this year is tinged with feelings of sadness and grief, it is important to identify coping mechanisms that make the season easier for you. Try the tips above, or contact Psychiatry Associates of Baton Rouge to learn more.