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.
The office parties, the cookies, and never ending search for gifts is enough to make you stressed and anxious-that used to be me as well. With your calendar only having a certain amount of free time to get all the holiday events in it can be a lot to manage and cope with.
Here are 4 of my favorite tips for beating stress during the holidays:
Eat real foods: Stressing during the holiday trying to find that “perfect gift” creates increased temptation to eat empty calorie, highly processed, and high sugar foods. Aim to eat more fruits and vegetables and foods high in healthy fats. Not only are they healthier but they are also great to keep your energy going during the busy holiday season.
Get clear and focused on your ‘to-do list”: The holidays are when I watch way too many people let themselves completely go. Set your priorities, let those in your family know your holiday non negotiables for personal self care, and allow all the rest to fall into place.
Use essential oils: I know Christmas Spirit scented lotion, candles and body spray sounds amazing but the synthetic fragrances in those personal care products are often creating hormone disruption and respiratory/skin allergens that can lead you to feel more stress, tired, and drained. Inhaling high quality, therapeutic grade essential oils via diffusing or topical application will help you decrease stress while enjoying the health benefits.
Make time to exercise daily: Stress is often elevated during the holidays for a variety of reasons and one of the fastest ways to relieve that is by exercising. Movement helps decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the body and also keeps you feeling stronger and better able to fight off illness that often swoops in during the holiday times.
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I know this all sounds easier said than done but remember after the gifts are all opened and the parties are all done maintaining a sustainable practice of stress reduction methods needs to continue. Start your holiday season off right clearly stating your intentions to manage your priorities and stress levels so you go into the new year feeling truly renewed!