A Plan to Help You Get Through It All
For individuals who are grieving the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be difficult, bringing about feelings of anxiety, sadness, and emptiness. As the holidays approach, it may be helpful to think about how to take care of yourself during this difficult time. In a previous article, we mentioned a few intangible things you can do to take care of yourself, such as allowing yourself to grieve in your own way, knowing when to ask for help, and other ways to get in touch with how you are feeling.
In this article, we'd like to provide a more concrete approach to holiday grief. This list will entail actual actions you can take to help aid your mental and physical health as you navigate this difficult time in your life.
Prepare in Advance
Be proactive when it comes to grieving during the holidays. If you plan to see people, think about some different scenarios that could happen, so you don't get stuck in an uncomfortable situation. For example, if you are going to a small gathering, think ahead about telling the host you might not be able to stay the whole time. That might help you in the future if you begin to recognize that the gathering is becoming a bit overwhelming. This way it's already known that you might be leaving early. Now, rather than having to announce to the whole party that you're going, you can leave comfortably on your own terms. This way you can get through it without feeling worse.
Planning Ahead Puts You in ControlYou lose a lot of control when someone you love passes. Your emotions can consume you, which may lead to you behaving differently. This is certainly not unusual. But it is important to regain control of your life. This can be a little speck of light that makes you feel like you can figure out what you want to do and actually do it.
Create New Traditions
While some people find comfort in keeping their usual traditions, others dealing with holiday grief may find it too difficult to do so. Holding on to a longstanding tradition may prove just too painful. That's why you should consider developing new family traditions. There's no right or wrong way to spend the holidays. It's what works best for you and your family. If a deceased loved one's favorite meal was made every holiday, and it's too difficult to make this year, that is okay. There's nothing wrong with discovering a new recipe. Perhaps there's a favorite game that your loved one enjoyed playing with everyone during this time of year. It's okay to skip it or find something new to play. And in general, it is perfectly fine to take a year off from your usual traditions and decide next year if you will resume them. You are not dishonoring a loved one's memory by doing so.
Scale Back Activities
Holiday grief can rob you of emotional and physical energy. That's why it's recommended that you cut back on holiday tasks such as baking, sending cards, decorating or putting up a tree. That's, of course, if they feel like chores to you.
Cutting back helps us focus on what's most important, like sharing connections with people and telling them what they mean to us. Sometimes those other activities are not as rewarding and can pull you away and make you feel scattered.
Don't Disconnect Entirely
Scaling back from holiday activities while grieving may be a good thing. However, it's important not to scale back EVERYTHING. Identifying how loss is impacting your body and mind is helpful for overcoming grief. Our bodies send us signals all the time. Recognize those signals as a stress response, and take a minute or two to engage in stress-reducing activities. This may include a short brisk walk, doing stairs in your own home, taking a nap, doing some meditation, or even talking to a friend. Anything that falls under the category of exercise, sleep, or socialization. These three things can be very helpful to a grieving person.
Set Small Daily Health Goals
Setting some daily health goals is a great way to stay strong during your time of grief. It provides a sense of accomplishment without feeling too burdensome, and you can tell others about your self-care plan so they can help support you and take the journey with you. A walk is good for you. A walk with a friend is even better.
Seek Professional Help
This is just a reminder that this article is a list. It's not a step-by-step process. Seeking professional help should not be a last option, nor should it feel like one. You're free to seek professional help at any moment during the grieving process. And it absolutely SHOULD NOT feel like you're giving up. You shouldn't feel like a failure because you couldn't "do it on your own." No one goes through the grieving process on their own.
Perhaps you would like some professional help,
but you're not sure where to turn? Check out the links below. These websites
are wonderful tools to help you get through anything and a lot of them provide
a hotline to call or groups for you to join. As we stated previously, no one
should go through grief alone. Whether it's help from your family and friends
or the kindness of strangers, you can and you will get through this!