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Coping With Grief During the Holiday Season

To someone who has recently lost a loved one, the holiday season’s approach can be like rubbing salt in the wound. Carols, celebrations, festive decorations and TV specials: things that are all meant to bring joy instead serve as painful reminders of loss. Bereavement services such as support groups and counseling can help take the sting out of this vulnerable time of year. Emotions start to surface in earnest as Thanksgiving signals the onset of the entire holiday season.

If you are trying to cope with grief after losing someone in Alameda County and elsewhere, here are some tips that may help.

Remember That Grief is Part of Healing

Time doesn’t completely heal the pain associated with loss; rather, it’s what you do with the time you have that counts. Give the grieving process time, trusting in the notion that grief is part of healing. While it may hurt, experience the pain rather than try to escape it. It can be easy, especially during the holidays, to numb the pain with alcohol, but this only temporarily avoids the pain and prolongs the grieving process, says Psychology Today.

Set Healthy Boundaries

Don’t force yourself to attend every holiday event or party. If participating in your family’s gift swap or attending a tree lighting ceremony in your community is just too much to bear this year, give yourself permission to say no. This doesn’t mean you should hole up in your home and avoid everyone. Pick and choose what you want to participate in as you set healthy boundaries for yourself throughout the season.

Find Support

When you share your feelings, particularly with other people who are going through the same thing, this is one of the best ways to get through this time. Yes, friends and relatives can be a big source of support during times of grief, but they may be dealing with their own feelings of grief if the deceased person was known to all of you. A support group is ideal because everyone comes from a shared, yet separate, experience and can be a helpful source of comfort and care for years to come.

Focus on What You are Able to Control

Many things are out of your control this holiday season. Hearing your late spouse’s favorite Christmas carol over the loudspeaker at a department store is not something you can control, but all the same, it may hit you like a ton of bricks. And there’s nothing you can do about overhearing coworkers talking about their holiday plans with family. But while you can’t prevent these circumstances from happening, there are a few things that are in your control.

Focus on what you can do to dull the heartache when you are able. It’s okay to keep your home decorations to a minimum, or do your holiday shopping online instead of in the stores. Choose a few things you can control, but also keep in mind that life does go on for other people and that it’s okay for them to celebrate.

Allow Yourself to Feel Emotion

The holidays bring on many emotions, especially when you’re grieving. In fact, in the span of a few minutes, you may find yourself feeling happiness, guilt and sadness. Don’t feel bad when you catch yourself laughing unexpectedly. It’s all OK. Feel those feelings as they come, and remember there are no right and wrong ways to feel during the holidays.

Create New Traditions

Old traditions may be too painful to face alone. But give yourself permission to create new ones this year, or adapt older traditions to accommodate for the loss.

Perform Acts of Kindness

Even when caught in the middle of grief, realize that you can still make a positive impact on the world. Acts of kindness are good for the grieving spirit. You can donate gifts to needy families, serve meals at a local soup kitchen, or volunteer at a nursing home.

Ask for Help

Asking for help when you need it is a sign of strength, not weakness. This can be as simple as reminding loved ones that you are going through a tough time right now and to give you some leeway. Or, it can be something as significant as making an appointment with a grief counselor or dropping in on a support group session. Whatever it is, dealing with grief in a healthy manner can only help you move forward.

Let people know how they can help, as many friends and family just don’t know what to do to ease your pain. Be specific. If you could use help with grocery shopping, ask. If you need help with child care, ask. Most people will be relieved and delighted knowing they can help in a concrete way, points out Very Well Health.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

If grief has enveloped you this holiday season, we can help. We offer bereavement services to get you through this difficult time of year, from support groups to counseling to memorial celebrations. Contact us today at 888-978-1306 to learn more.