Do you wish you could just skip over this holiday season and not deal with all its joy while you are still grieving the loss of a loved one? Whether it’s the first or fourth holiday without him or her, grief can still wash over you like an ocean wave and leave you feeling unsocial, sad, guilty, and maybe even angry.
Grief is a process unique to every person going through it and you might not be the only one grieving at the family dinner.
Advice to help you cope
Some of this advice might work for you and some of them might not but go through the tips we provide here and hopefully, coping with your grief in this holiday season will be a bit easier.
Check in with yourself
During the holidays you may be feeling a whirlwind of positive and negative emotions. On the one hand, you enjoy being with your family and friends and having a fun time. On the other hand, and at the same time, you miss the person that is not there, and you are sad about it. These emotions coexist and as confusing as they might be, it’s normal.
Take the time to check in with your emotions every day and throughout the day as well. Acknowledge both the positive and negative feelings so they don’t catch you off guard.
Set your limitations
Even though it is traditionally a holiday where everyone gets together, you don’t have to force yourself to go to a family event that you are not emotionally ready for. Don’t just “ghost” the people that care about you though. Call your host, or an attendee that you feel comfortable with, and tell them what is going on. You don’t have to go through this time alone, even if you are not surrounding yourself with people.
If you do feel obliged to go, remember that you don’t have to stay for the entire event or evening. If you want to bow out just after dinner or only stay at the party for an hour, then that’s fine.
Honour the loved one you lost
As we said, chances are good that you are not the only person still dealing with their grief. Talk to the host of your dinner and/or party and ask them to make time for a moment to honour the loved one you lost. If you aren’t up for saying something in front of everyone, you can ask them to do it or ask someone else that would be willing. You could share stories of the person or just recognise their absence for a moment. Even though your loved one is no longer there in person, they are still a part of all your lives and recognising it could help you deal with their absence.
Find your (healthy) coping mechanisms
You should take time to identify the healthy coping mechanisms that work for you. When you feel overwhelmed, you might need to step out and take a couple of deep breaths of fresh air. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing, on your diaphragm moving up and down and your chest expanding and contracting. Go to the kitchen and drink a glass of water one sip at a time. Oxygen and water help your brain and organs function as they should, so when there is a sudden rush of emotions and your body reacts, providing it with some extra oxygen and water can help. Focusing on your breathing and on taking just one sip at a time can also help your brain to reset and cope better.
Ask for help
We all need help and support. Asking for it doesn’t make you weak, it just means you are a normal person going through a difficult time. Go to a family member, friend, or professional to get the support you need. Maybe you just need someone to listen as you talk and work through the emotions. Maybe you just really need a hug and someone to cry with. That is okay. There are people all around you that are willing and able to support you, you just need to reach out to them.
The Christmas season is a joyous holiday, and while you can be grieving and missing someone, don’t forget that there are also people in your life that love you and that you love as well. Spending time with them might help you cope, and it can also be a good step forward in the grieving process and learning to live without your lost loved one.