When You’re Grieving: Coping with the Holidays
If you have experienced a loss, the holidays are probably not an easy time for you. Holidays, like anniversaries, weddings and graduations, are what counselors call “grief triggers,” causing painful memories to resurface. Here are some ways to make things easier:
- Let others around you know that this may be a challenging time for you. Sometimes just having others be aware of how you are feeling can be helpful.
- Decide whether or not you want to follow family traditions regarding the holiday. And know that there is no right or wrong way—just what feels more comfortable for YOU.
- Plan to meet up with people that you enjoy spending time with.
- Consider giving your time for others: volunteer at a shelter, serve meals at a soup kitchen, share a cup of coffee or tea with someone who has no relatives in the area, or buy gifts for a needy family. Doing for others can be very therapeutic!
- Make a donation in your loved one’s name.
- Take care of yourself: eat right, exercise, rest and, even though it may help to numb the emotional pain, take it easy on the eggnog.
- Leave a picture of your loved one out for you to see, so you can include them in your holiday.
- Do your shopping online or at smaller stores rather than the mall.
- Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to feel whatever you may be feeling. Cry if you want to, or go ahead and laugh if the opportunity arises. Don’t feel guilty about experiencing moments of happiness or joy.
- Be true to yourself and live your life to the fullest. That is the best gift to give yourself as well as to the one you have lost.
If you become so preoccupied with your loss that it disrupts your daily life and affects your relationship with others, consider seeking professional help. This can help you avoid the more complicated grief and clinical depression that leads to more significant emotional or physical health problems.
Where to go for help:
Discuss your concerns with your primary care physician. He or she may be able to connect you with a mental health provider or call our local community mental health center. Check out the list of centers in New Hampshire at the Department of Health and Human Services.
Information taken from Aging Issues, Volume 16, Issue, a publication for New Hampshire’s Older Citizens.