Grief comes in many layers and after losing my dad to Parkinson’s I have experienced many of the typical identified stages of grief.
While the holidays are typically a festive time of the year it can be an unexpected challenge when you have lost a loved one. It can also heighten the stress that is already common for many during the holiday season. Simply hearing music, participating in holiday traditions, or even spending time with others can be a trigger.
Here are some ways to cope with grief and loss during the holidays
Accept that you’re not stuck in traditional patterns
For me Christmas was the holiday that I most looked forward to with my parents. As my dad’s illness progressed I had to slowly accept that the holiday season doesn’t only comprise large meals and gifts. Accept that the patterns and traditions you create for the holiday are just that, traditions that you create and they can and will continually evolve as they are always rooted in the idea of togetherness. As you keep that in mind you may then feel less guilt about the traditions looking different than previously experienced.
State healing affirmations
Mourning a loss during the holidays can bring so many emotions. Affirmations have been shown to clinically improve a person’s outlook.¹ Consider crafting a powerful affirmation that speaks to your needs and reminds you that the love for your lost loved one still remains.
Grief can often make you feel like you are alone. Make sure to use your community and it’s resources. It can be so easy to assume that others know you need extra support during the holidays but many will not know or they may be too afraid to say anything. Communicate your needs with your friends and community circles so that others can help hold a space for you in a way that is healing.
Honor your feelings and take a break when needed
Living in NY I’ve always been impressed with the fast paced feel and chaos that is so often experienced for adults during the holiday season. Grieving is a stressful process in itself because there are so many feelings and for that reason alone it is of utmost importance to be more attuned with the feelings you have and take breaks to just rest. You cannot be everything to everyone all the time without being for yourself first and that means setting some boundaries to let others know that part of your healing journey requires space to rest and unwind.
As I go through this journey myself I realize more and more that the memories you hold of your late loved one are personal and equally important to remember during the holidays. It’s ok to hold onto the things about them that make your holiday season so special but remember the days afterwards are equally as important in your coping journey. Stay strong my friends.
If you’re going through a hard grieving process or finding the idea of the holidays without a loved one stressful feel free to check out this guide with 6 caregiver tips for beating stress.