The holiday season is often an exciting and joyous time of the year; but for some it serves as a reminder of those loved ones who are no longer around. Grief is a powerful emotion that can wreak havoc in our everyday lives; causing anger, frustration, depression, and anxiety all at different extremes1. As humans, naturally, we avoid unpleasant situations and/or feelings due to not being able to handle or process the heavy emotions that accompany grief. This may cause some to cope in different ways such as lashing out in anger or engaging in unhealthy activities. Substance use and self-medicating are other ways that some people deal with grief. Please be aware that this only gives temporary relief and it will not permanently take away the pain. Using drugs and alcohol to suppress feelings can lead to addiction and create more negative feelings that affect your mental health.1 To help ease the holiday blues, listed below are a few healthy ways to prepare for the holidays while experiencing grief:
* Trust that grief is part of healing2: Time does not heal the pain associated with a loss; it is what you do with the time that matters. Do not try to escape the pain. Grief is a process and trying to avoid it only drags out that process.
* Set healthy boundaries2: You do not have to force yourself to face every holiday event or tradition. You are allowed to say no if something is going to be too painful.
* Focus on what you can control2: We cannot keep every bad thing from occurring. Think about what you can do to lessen the impact for when things do go wrong and then pick a few things that you can do to assert some control. For example, if you know that you tend to burn things while cooking, do not offer to bring anything that involves cooking.
* Plan ahead2: The holidays are stressful enough with all that goes into them and sometimes the anticipation is worse than the actual event. Create a plan for yourself, so that you can prepare for what is to come and have an escape route if needed.
* Allow yourself to feel a range of emotions2: This one is very important. Our emotions play into our everyday lives. It is our brain’s way of telling us how we feel without words. Do not block out these emotions. Embrace them and know that you do not have to hide them.
* Find ways to honor your memories2: Find a special way to memorialize the person whom you have lost. Whether it is lighting a candle or eating that person’s favorite dessert. This will help you feel that even though they may be gone, their love never fades.
* Create new traditions2: Sometimes old traditions fade away after a loved one has passed on. Do not be afraid to create a new tradition or alter an old one.
* Do something kind for others2: Volunteering or donating gifts to someone in need are just a couple of ways that you can do something kind for someone. Performing an act of kindness can be good for a grieving person and it will help produce that feeling of having something to offer the world.
* Ask for help2: Do not be afraid to ask for help when you are struggling. Whether this is a family member, friend, a professional, or even a stranger. If you feel that you need to talk to someone, there is always someone around who will listen.
Knowing healthy ways to cope and knowing when to ask for help are of the utmost importance. Parents or Guardians, if your family has recently experienced a loss, please talk to your kids about how the loss is affecting them and discuss healthy ways to manage those feelings.
Happy Holidays from RAYSAC and a Happy New Year!
1. Addiction Center (2017). 4 Ways Greif Can Lead to Addiction. Addiction Center. 1 August 2017. retrieved 12 December 2019 from https://www.addictioncenter.com/community/4-ways-grief-can-lead-addiction/
2. Morin, A., (2015). How to Deal with Grief During the Holidays. Psychology Today. 21 December 2015. retrieved 6 December 2019 from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201512/how-deal-grief-during-the-holidays