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Navigating Grief and Loss Through the Holidays

The holidays are a time unlike any other throughout the year. We get to spend time with loved ones, hopefully have some time to relax, reflect on the year we have had and plan for the year ahead. Although this time of year is filled with joy and coziness, it can also come with feelings of grief and loss. Oftentimes when we think of grief we consider what we feel after someone close to us passes away. Grief and loss includes other aspects as well. Perhaps this holiday season you are without a special person who is no longer in your life or not physically present. Maybe someone you love is very ill. It could be that you're not looking forward to the family gatherings because of difficult relationships with your loved ones. Maybe you are experiencing grief due to things that are hard to talk about such as miscarriage, infant loss, or infertility. Or you are grieving the loss of dreams yet to come true. These are just a few examples of the various losses that people experience. We can even have feelings of loss in happy circumstances such as the nostalgia for how the holidays used to be before the kids grew up or when we were younger.

Here are 3 ways to navigate grief and loss through the holidays:

Seek connection with others. Whether that’s friends, family, church, or support groups. Having a trusted person to talk with about your feelings can take some of that heaviness off of your heart. The internal process of grieving is the hidden side of loss. Talking about grief does not take it away but it can lighten the load and make you feel less alone with what you are dealing with. If talking about it is difficult, you can write a letter to someone for them to read and respond to.

Acknowledge your feelings. Grief is a normal response to loss. No matter if it has been one month or ten years. The focus is less on getting over the loss and more on learning how to cope well. Grief can come in waves. Sometimes it feels like a gentle reminder washing onto the shore. Other times it might feel like a tidal wave crashing over us. Give yourself permission to lean into those emotions. Sometimes we face the grief head on and other times distractions are helpful for coping. Give yourself the space and time to process your feelings.

Take good care of yourself. Grief is intensely personal and based on how we view the loss. Tap into those positive coping strategies that work for you specifically. If you are unsure, this would be a great time to explore what helps when you feel an overwhelming sense of emotions. That can be going for a walk, listening to music, making a healthy meal, journaling, praying or meditating or another activity that makes you feel better or serves as a positive distraction.

Navigating grief and loss at any time can be tough but especially during the holidays. The three ways listed above can help cope with those feelings. You can hold space for both the joy of the holidays and the reality of grief. If you feel like you need more support, you can reach out to a therapist to collaborate with you on how to manage the grief. It is possible and attainable to live well with grief.

Written by: Lacadia Jones, Master of Family Therapy

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