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Why Grief Can Seem Worse During the Holidays

Grief in and of itself is bad enough, but it can be magnified when the holidays roll around. That’s mainly because the holiday season is filled with reminders of the one you lost, as you’re surrounded by others who have their loved ones with them and are celebrating a season of joy and togetherness. Joining a support group or getting counseling as part of bereavement services in Alameda County and elsewhere can help immensely, especially during this difficult time where everyone else seems so happy and put together.

The holiday season starts in early November and ends after New Year’s Day, and that two-month period can be devastating for those who are in the process of grieving. This time of year brings a lot of hustle and bustle, shopping, and socializing with family and friends. Everyone else seems to be happy and festive as they run around preparing for parties, hitting up malls, and buying presents for loved ones. Even in the midst of so much chaos, you may feel utterly alone. This is exacerbated by the fact that often during this time, many normal activities are shut down or postponed, leaving you alone with memories of your lost loved one.

The pain you’re feeling is very much at odds with the celebratory spirit that’s all around you, leaving you nothing but quiet moments where you’re faced with the raw power of loss, points out MentalHelp.

Tips to Cope With Grief at the Holidays

There are ways to get through the holiday and cope with your grief during this time. First off, it’s important to acknowledge that the holidays will be tough for you and to give yourself some extra self-care as you navigate through this month. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Decide which traditions you would like to keep and which ones you would like to change, suggests What’s Your Grief.
  • Create a new tradition in memory of the person you lost.
  • Think about where you want to celebrate the holiday. If it’s too painful to do the same you’ve always done, consider changing the location. For others, it can be comforting to keep things as they were. It’s totally up to you and there is no wrong answer.
  • Plan ahead and speak with family and friends to ensure everyone agrees about the traditions that will or will not be honored this year. Remember, everyone grieves differently. When several people lose one person they loved, everyone is grieving but they do it in a different way. If you lost a parent, for example, be considerate of how your siblings decide to celebrate.
  • Place a memory stocking or box at the holiday party or meal where everyone can write down what they loved about the person. Read them together.
  • Include your loved one’s favorite dish at Christmas dinner.
  • Be honest with friends who try to get you to go out and “get over it.” Let them know you’re not ready. They will understand. Take baby steps and pace yourself. One day you may feel like being sociable and the other you may feel like curling up on the couch. It’s OK.
  • Donate money to charity in your loved one’s name or buy a gift and donate it to a charity they cherished.
  • See a counselor to talk about your feelings. Join a support group to connect with others going through the same thing.
  • Donate your loved one’s clothing to a homeless shelter. This may spur you to go through their closets if you have been having a hard time facing this task.
  • Craft a memorial wreath, ornament, tree, or decoration in their name.
  • Leave yourself an “out” at holiday events. Drive yourself to any parties you’re invited to so you can leave when you sense too much holiday overload.
  • Talk to your kids about the loss. They may be feeling conflicting emotions about the loss of their loved one, as they struggle with the joy of the season offset by the sadness they see in you and others around them.
  • Nix the holiday cards this year. You’re going through a lot. No one says you have to go through the motions of sending out cards if it’s just too much. You can always pick it up again next year.
  • Minimize gift-giving, or skip it altogether. With so much on your mind, going to the mall or spending hours shopping online may seem like an unnecessary stress. Talk with family members about what you all want to do about gift exchanges this year. Perhaps you could do a Secret Santa where you only have to buy one gift for another person.
  • In the end, remember this: it’s okay to be happy. This doesn’t take away from how much you loved your spouse, parent, or other lost loved one.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

The holidays are a tough time for so many of our patients and family members. Contact us at 888-978-1306 to learn more about our bereavement services that can help get you through the holidays and beyond.