Every year when August hits I am reminded that the holidays are right around the corner.
The holiday season can be stressful on it own without the added layers of grief. Grief is a difficult emotion to describe because it is made up of so many other feelings such as sadness, anger, devastation, and so many more. These feelings often show up in different intensities at different times. What helps you cope one time may make you dissolve into tears the next. Having some skills, or some alternative traditions to draw on when you find yourself hit by intense feelings can help you to cope with the holidays. Here are a few that worked for me.
- Take a look at your family traditions. Are there any that feel too painful? Give yourself permission to do things differently or not at all this year. You may feel differently next year.
- A change of scenery may help. Traveling to a new destination can take you out of the too familiar that may be too painful for you. You will still miss your loved one, and remember past holidays, however you will not be faced every day with constant associative memories that you are not ready to face, especially if your loss has been recent. Even if your loss has not been so recent, take care of your own needs.
- Self-care is especially important during times of stress.When I am feeling stress my grief lives right under the surface. Give yourself some extra self-care this holiday season. I suggest that you make a list of things that nourish you, or give you pleasure. It is good to have this list handy when you do feel stressed or overwhelmed. You can choose something from your list without having to think of what you want to do when you are already feeling stress. Naps can be great stress relievers, as can mindlessly doodling.
Remember that grief changes with the seasons. What worked this year may not work next year. There is no right or wrong way to meet your grief, no timetable on when you will begin to heal. Give yourself the time you need, honor your own process. Each member of your family will process grief in their own way too. You can let them know their way is ok, sometimes that is all that is needed, to know that however we are processing grief and wherever we are our grief journey is exactly right for us.
That can be enough to allow us to relax a little and let the healing begin.