Celebrating the holidays can be difficult when you are grieving the loss of a loved one. The influx of grief this time of year is a common reason many people seek the help of a therapist. Grief typically surfaces around Thanksgiving and continues to build throughout the holiday season.
Despite how overwhelming grief can feel, it’s possible to cope and find healthy ways to celebrate. If you’re struggling with grief from the loss of a loved one, these five coping strategies can help you through the holidays this year:
1. Accept that grief is a part of healing
Time alone doesn’t heal the wounds created by such a significant loss, but grief is the process by which you heal. Coping with your pain rather than trying to escape it can support the healing process in the long term.
You may be tempted to numb your feelings with drugs or alcohol, or simply pretend the holidays don’t exist. However, there are healthier and more productive ways to cope with grief like speaking with a therapist, attending support groups, or confiding in a close friend. Eventually, the holidays will get easier and it’s okay to seek the support of others until then.
2. Set healthy boundaries
If the local Christmas tree lighting or the office “Secret Santa” gift exchange are likely to bring about too many painful memories, you can skip it this year. Establish healthy boundaries for yourself while you are grieving. Other people may pressure you to participate in holiday activities, but you certainly don’t have to if you don’t feel ready.
3. Focus on things within your control
There are a lot of things you can’t control about the holidays. You can’t control the Christmas music playing in the elevator or the conversations you overhear between coworkers about New Year’s Eve parties and family plans. Keep in mind that life goes on for other people and their excitement doesn’t mean your feelings aren’t valid.
Focus on things you can control to lessen the heartache you feel when situations trigger or worsen your grief. Consider limiting your decorations, incorporating new holiday traditions, or shopping for presents online.
4. Honor your memories
Create a special way to remember the person you’ve lost. Light a candle in their honor or eat their favorite meal. Acknowledging your loved one during this time of year can serve as a tangible reminder that although your loved one is gone, the love you feel for them never dies.
5. Ask for help
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you’re struggling with grief during the holidays. Reminding friends and family members that you’re having a difficult time may be enough, but you also may want to reach out for more support in the form of therapy or counseling. Join a local support group or contact a licensed professional who can help you find healthy ways to cope with your grief.