Whether recent or one that happened years ago, the experience of losing a loved one may be difficult to bear, particularly during the holidays when moments with family and friends are often the focal point.
“The holidays often evoke fond memories and images of family togetherness,” says Kelly Engleson, a bereavement counselor affiliated with Sharp HospiceCare. “But for those who are grieving, this time of year has the potential to underscore what they have lost and what others still have. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah or New Year’s — these may feel like days to endure rather than to enjoy.”
It is normal to feel grief, as it is part of the healing process. But there are ways to cope. Engleson provides five tips for dealing with loss during the holidays.
Allow yourself to feel. Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you’re feeling. It is OK to feel sad, angry or depressed. And it is also OK to experience moments of joy and happiness. Whatever you may be feeling, it’s important not to think that the holiday season will take away or obscure your feelings of grief.
Have a support system. Allow yourself to turn to others for support both for practical and emotional assistance. Friends and family can be there to alleviate some of the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, such as helping with shopping, decorating or food preparation.
Take charge where you can. If you have any holiday traditions, you may want to evaluate which ones you feel comfortable maintaining this year and which traditions might be best to change or eliminate. Also, try to plan your day ahead of time and give yourself permission to be flexible with this plan to allow for changes as needed.
Take it easy. The holiday season can be a hectic time. Try to be gentle with yourself and make space for comfort or joy. This may include not overplanning, allowing time for rest and relaxation, and being kind to yourself.
Remember to remember. You may find comfort in finding ways to remember and honor your loved one. Some examples may be to give a toast or a prayer in your loved one’s honor before dinner, light a candle, donate a gift in honor of your loved one’s memory, give a gift of your loved one’s belongings to another family member or share stories of your loved one during a holiday gathering.
To learn more about how to cope with grief during the holidays, attend Sharp HospiceCare’s free presentation on Wednesday, Dec. 2, from 2 to 3 pm at the Grossmont Healthcare District Conference Center in La Mesa.