Whether you have a loved one living far away or a loved one that has passed, remember this time of year is hard for many people feeling grief and self-care is essential.
We can all acknowledge and support that underneath the excitement of the holidays and gatherings with friends and family, we may also need to simultaneously hold space for the pain of loss and loneliness.
Give yourself space to feel your feelings.
All of your feelings. Grief, sadness, anger, anxiety, confusion, relief, guilt are all ok. And they may come and go in waves or slap you upside the face at Thanksgiving dinner.
When the feelings come, identify them, label them, feel them. You may feel the need to cry or even step away. Whatever you need to do for yourself is ok. The most important thing is not to avoid your feelings or feel bad about what you’re experiencing. It’s important to understand that regulating these feelings can be tricky, and it’s ok to struggle.
Identify your supports and be open with them about your needs.
Identifying your support system can sometimes be difficult depending on your plans, guest list, or family dynamics. Make sure you have at least one person tuned into your process who is able and willing to be there for you. If they can’t support you in person, arrange for them to be available for you by phone or text.
When attending family functions, let those around you know that being there without the person you love may be hard. Tell them that you may need to step away and cry or take a break. You may want to add a boundary or a request such as “Please don’t ask about _______. I don’t want to talk about it.”
Recognize that your partner or other children might be experiencing feelings different from yours.
When families experience a loss together, each member usually processes the experience in their own way. So it’s not unusual for each member to be in a different stage of the grieving process or manage their grief differently.
When it comes to dealing with grief, there is no right or wrong way so try to avoid comparing experiences with judgment. Because one family is at peace doesn’t mean they are heartless. And the person feeling sadness isn’t crazy because they’re not feeling peace. Being in different places emotionally actually allows you to offer each other different types of support.
Consider changing your “normal” routine.
Give yourself permission to opt-out of hosting your extended family or traveling to see them to holiday gatherings. If it feels best to be alone, choose to order in and stay home in your pajamas if that’s what you need to get through the holiday. Maybe you want to create a new ritual for this time of year to make new memories. Or maybe you honor your child or loved one’s place at the table and share gratitude for the time you were able to experience them. There are many great ways to externalize your loss during the holidays listed in this article. “Grief & the Holidays, Dealing with the Pain.”
Above all, remember this is an individualized journey. There is no right or wrong, no shoulds. You are precisely where you need to be for yourself.
If you find yourself in need to help this holiday season, please feel free to contact us to schedule a session. We are here for you. You are not alone.