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Coping with Grief & Loss During the Holidays

  • Category: Mental Health
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Frederick Health
Coping with Grief & Loss During the Holidays

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The winter holidays can be challenging at the best of times. Family feuds, money struggles, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), and loneliness all take their toll. When you add grief over the loss of a loved one into the mix, the season can seem unbearable. This year’s winter holidays are especially hard for many. Too many of us have suffered the loss of one or more loved ones to COVID-19. The pandemic forces us to isolate from friends and family at a time when we most need the comfort of their presence. How can you deal with your sadness when it seems like everyone around you expects joy?

Making Room for Grief

There is no right way to feel after the death of someone you love, especially when you’re facing your first holiday season without them. Allow your grief its space, and don’t worry about “putting on a brave face” for others.

Here are some ways to cope with grief and loss as you make your way through the holidays this year:

  • Decide what feels right to you. It’s okay to ignore the holidays if it just feels like too much to deal with. But, if bright colors, fresh cookies, and holiday cartoons are a comfort, that’s okay too.
  • Remember that almost everyone’s traditions are affected this year, and most people are doing something different than usual. You won’t be alone if you want to celebrate, but it’s okay if you can’t bring yourself to do the things that once included your loved one.
  • Reduce your stress. If you have unused leave from work, consider taking a mental health day or long weekend. Take advantage of not traveling or hosting festivities and use that time to relax instead. Do holiday things when they seem fun or comforting. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t have the energy or desire for them.
  • Tell the people in your life what you need—or enlist someone to do it for you. Many people have a hard time knowing what to say to or do for someone who’s grieving, especially at a time meant for happiness. Use social media or email to let friends know if you need some space or want to chat. Ask them to distract you with funny memes or talk through your sadness. If there’s anything you need help with, tell them. Ask them to help spread the word, or ask one trusted person to deliver the message for you.
  • Do something to remember your loved one. As much as it might hurt to think of them, it feels worse when people act like that loved one never existed. If you have children, it’s also comforting for them to feel like that person is still with you in your hearts. Looking at pictures or videos, honoring a favorite tradition, or making something they would have liked are healthy ways to process grief and keep that loved one close.

Get the Support You Need

You don’t have to go through the holidays alone. Your healthcare provider, hospice, therapist, community center, or house of worship have resources to help you, including:

  • Workshops about the grieving process, which can be virtual;
  • Support groups, which can be targeted at different age groups or relationships;
  • One-on-one pastoral or professional counseling, which offers privacy for your grief process;
  • Remembrance services such as the ones offered through Frederick Health Hospice that connect you with others in your situation as well as your community;
  • Workplace education around handling grief in a professional setting.

Look to Frederick Health Hospice’s grief and loss services for help for you and your family, or to find resources in your own community.

Be gentle with yourself this holiday season. Grief takes its own time and can show up in unexpected ways, especially when it’s fresh. Let your community show up for you to help you through your loss and eventually find peace.