5 Ways to Help Yourself Cope and Heal During This Season
The holidays are a time when we can feel a renewed sense of personal grief over the loss of a loved one or the end of an important relationship. Society encourages us to join in the holiday spirit, but the sounds, sights, and smells trigger memories that can overwhelm us and leave us feeling empty, anxious, and hurt. While no simple guidelines can take away the hurt we feel, these six suggestions adapted from content by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. at the Center for Loss and Life Transition can guide you in preparing for this important time of year.
Ignoring grief does not make the pain go away. Avoidance, while it feels better in the moment often makes things worse. Talking about loss openly will make you feel better. Identify a friend or two who will understand that this time of year can increase your sense of loss. Find those persons who encourage you to be yourself and accept your feelings – both happy and sad. Also, as you talk about the person or relationship you’ve lost, do not be afraid to use the person’s name in holiday conversations. If you are able to talk candidly, other people are more likely to recognize your need to remember. When they recognize your need, you may help them address their need to grieve.
Don’t overextend yourself. Feelings of loss might leave you fatigued and naturally slow you down. Respect what your body and mind are telling you. Lower your own expectations about being at your peak during the holiday season. Realize also that merely “keeping busy” won’t distract you from your grief (back to number one) but may increase stress and postpone the benefits that come from talking about the thoughts and feelings related to your grief.
Structure your holiday time. Decide which family traditions you want to continue and which new ones you would like to begin. This will help you anticipate activities, rather than feeling the need to react to whatever happens. Getting caught off guard can create feelings of panic, fear, and anxiety at a time when feelings of grief are already taxing you physically and emotionally.
Memories are one of the best legacies that exist after someone we love dies or we end an important relationship. Holidays have a way of making us think about times past, so instead of ignoring memories, share them with someone close to you. Keep in mind that memories are tinged with both happiness and sadness. If your memories bring laughter, smile. If your memories bring sadness, then it’s alright to cry.
For many, the holidays bring about a renewed sense of faith and hope in something larger than ourselves. Depending on your religious beliefs and practices, there are many ways to explore themes of hope and loss during this season. As a follower of Jesus, I take a moment in this season to read Matthew’s Gospel to remind myself of the meaning behind the celebration of Christmas and the name Immanuel (God with us). This reading reminds me of how grief comes as a result of giving and receiving love. Death is woven into the fabric of life and it is important to not let anyone minimize or rush the importance of your grief.
The Summit has counselors who can help you navigate through the pain and hurt of a major loss. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, call the front office at 678-893-5300 or visit us at www.summitcounseling.org.