Holiday Grief: 10 Tips for Coping

sad christmas

I’ll Have a Blue Christmas Without You

By Daniel Sullivan, LPC

Halloween has just ended and before we have had the opportunity to pack away the ghosts, ghouls and goblins the mad dash to ring in the holidays begins. Joy to the world…Christmas, Christmas time is hear, time for fun and time for cheer…Happy Holidays, everywhere we turn we’re told that it’s the most wonderful time of the year. Yet for many the delight and expectancy is more 50 shades of the holiday blues. Yes, we are talking about holiday grief.

In March of this year, I received the call that no one wants to hear. My former partner of 11 years had died of heart failure and suddenly I was thrust into a year of firsts. The first birthday, Pride fest, Halloween, and now holiday season without his being around has stirred up a roller coaster of emotions. Unfortunately, grief is not a lateral process where once one-step is worked through you move onto the next. Thus, each time I feel a sense of peace in moving forward, bam I am hit with another first. So, like many of you here I am again…another first…the first holiday season when he is physically no longer there.

So, how do we find some sense of joy during what may be your first holiday without our loved one? In all honesty, I am not 100% sure, but experience and some training have presented me with some tips, which I plan to use. I am passing these on to each of you and trust that somewhere in these tips you will find something that will work.

seasonal affective disorder sad

1. Be gentle with yourself. Just because everyone around you is singing, Happy Holidays does not mean it automatically will rub off on you.

2. Do not isolate. While taking time to yourself can be a positive thing, too much time on your hands only exacerbates the feelings of sadness

3. Do not over schedule. While keeping busy may help, overbooking can add to the stress.

4. Remember that holidays will be different without your loved one. Change can be difficult, it can be saddening at times, but different does not have to be a bad thing.

5. Do not over indulge. Remember alcohol is a depressant. I am in no way telling you to “just say no” but over doing it can increase, the depression not makes it go away.

6. Consider going somewhere different for the holidays. Sometimes you just need to shake it up a bit, leave town, take a vacation, and go visit a friend or family that you have not seen in a while. Wherever you feel comfortable, that is where you should be for the holidays!

7. Give back. Sometimes in our own pain, it helps to give back. Seek out opportunities to give back to others, a soup kitchen collecting toys for tots, visiting a children’s ward or nursing home.

8. Do not eliminate traditions. The holidays bring up a myriad of memories. Embrace the positive memories and utilize the traditions as a way of drawing strength from those happy memories of you and your loved one.

9. Create new traditions. Maybe you want to light a candle in honor of your loved one. Perhaps having friends and family members each share a story regarding the holidays and your loved one, which brings them joy. Create those new traditions, which include the memory of your loved one. While your loved one may no longer be physically here, they can live on through your memories and newly created traditions.

10. Take time by yourself to remember. Honor the memory of your loved one in a way that is special to you. This year on Christmas Eve, similar to what I did at my former partner’s memorial service I plan to take a rose down to Lake Michigan and release it. For me it is a way to say you will always have a place in my heart and a part of my holidays.

If you are one the plethora of individuals who have suffered the loss of a loved one, the holidays can feel more like a burden we cannot wait to be over rather than a time of fun and cheer. While others rush from holiday party to holiday party, shopping into all hours of the night, and prepares for the annual holiday traditions, those grieving may be experiencing any number of depressive/grief related symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, intense sadness, loss of appetite, and outbursts of anger, which lead to friend or family conflict.

If you are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms and feel overwhelmed, you are not alone. Reach out and seek some help. While some businesses may close down for the holiday season, I do not. Call 773-528-1777 to schedule an appointment and let us work through this together. You can also send a confidential email through our online contact form. 

Finally, I am including a book recommendation below on healing your holiday grieving with 100 practical ideas for you to think about. 

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