Keep love present when coping with grief during the holidays
Ask people how they feel about the holidays, and you’ll get a variety of reactions. It may be because, even when things are going well, the holidays can present additional demands that increase stress levels and anxiety. If you’ve recently suffered the loss of a loved one, that ordinary holiday stress can quickly turn into a complex, overwhelming, exhausting endurance race.
After a loved one dies, it automatically becomes a year of “firsts.” The first anniversary of every event no longer experienced or celebrated with the person who is now glaringly absent. What was once a reliable or comforting ritual may suddenly feel like an emotional roller coaster of unwelcome change. Grief triggers may be seemingly everywhere: old movies, familiar scents, a favorite song on a playlist. For many, the initial reaction is to avoid and distract. Although it’s a natural response, over time it becomes increasingly ineffective at moving through the grief.
Perhaps when coping with grief during the holidays, instead of connecting with friends, family and others to primarily distract from grief, consider a choice to deliberately “include” the loved one who is no longer present, with intention.
Viewing photos, videos, items that remind you of your loved one, as well as journaling your thoughts and feelings, and sharing them with others, can be cathartic and productive, and can help to keep love present and close at hand. In addition, consider the possibility of creating new holiday traditions after a loved one dies. Here are some great suggestions.
For those who find mourning too difficult, grief support and counseling can provide tremendous benefits. Whether in a group, individually, or through attending memorials or workshops, activities that allow mourners to receive support and connection are important in adapting to the changes that are inevitably occurring.
Healing includes both peaks and valleys — tears of sadness and loss mix with the laughter and joy of reflecting on cherished memories. Healing is the result of a gradual reorganization of, rather than an ending to, the relationship with an absent loved one.