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Dealing with Loss During the Holidays

With the holiday season approaching, we are constantly bombarded by images of happy families together sharing the joy of the season. However, if you are alone and grieving, this may not be the picture that you can imagine at this point. Holidays, birthdays, or other days that were an important part of your family traditions may trigger painful feelings of loss and grief. People ask, "so, what do you want for Christmas?" The real answer may be, "I want my loved one back," or "I want my job back," or maybe it's, "I want to be able to afford the holidays."

For some people, anticipating, and perhaps even dreading, the upcoming occasion is worse than the actual day. Fearing that you may react badly, or ruin the holiday for others, can lead to feelings of grief and anxiety.

There are several ways to approach these special days. You can try to make them just as they were in the past. You can do something completely different. Or you can create a day that combines old traditions with new ones. There may be some pressure from family and friends to do the day exactly as before, but this can be emotionally draining because nothing is ever truly exactly as before.

While you might find yourself wishing that you could just go to sleep and wake up after the holidays, that is not an option. The good news is that grief support during holidays is possible!

Here are some ideas which may help you face the challenges of the holidays.

Don't Isolate Yourself. It's normal and natural to feel lost and alone―but Don't Isolate―even if you have to force yourself to be with people and participate in everyday activities.

Don't misuse food or alcohol to cover up or push down your feelings. As children, when we were sad about something, we were often told, "Don't feel bad. Here have a cookie; you'll feel better." The cookie doesn't make the child feel better; it makes the child feel different. The real cause of your sadness is not resolved this way. When we get older, alcohol and drugs are used for the same wrong reasons - to mask feelings of sadness.

Talk about your feelings, but don't expect a quick fix. It's essential to have someone you trust to talk to about your memories and the feelings they evoke. Ask a friend to listen to you and not try to fix you. You're sad, not broken, and you need to be heard.

While it's important to talk about your feelings, please don't dwell on them. Telling yourself the same sad story repeatedly is not helpful; it can establish and cement a relationship to your pain. It can be better to make a simple statement of how you feel in the moment. For example, say, "I just had a sad feeling of missing him/her."

Time doesn't heal—actions do. The myth that time heals a broken heart is just that, a myth. Time passes, but it's the actions you take within time that can help you feel better.

You may find that the challenges of the holidays prompt you to want to start taking recovery action. Taking meaningful action to move through your loss's emotional pain will help prepare you for the next special day on the calendar. We would be honored to help you with that. Check out our various workshops and contact us for a free consultation.

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