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When Grief Strikes During the Holidays

Updated: Sep 11, 2023

Holidays and happiness are supposed to be synonymous. For those dealing with grief the holidays may trigger feelings of sadness, anger or even dread. It may be difficult to cope when holiday cheer is encapsulating everything around you; the sights, the smells, the sounds of holiday bliss, it’s all there and you are doing your best just trying to make it through the day.

When grief strikes it feels as though the ground has shifted beneath you. First, it’s just a crack; you’re still on solid ground. You can still stand. But as the crack expands, it leaves you stranded on the same side as the pain and the other side, the safe side, is getting further and further away. So, there you stand, on shaky ground knowing it is fully conceivable that the crack may become an enormous hole that can envelope the whole of you.

The Many Feelings

You feel as though you should be stronger than your pain. You are alive. You breathe deep breaths to remind yourself you are in fact breathing. You laugh. You feel the sun on your face and stare at the blue of the sky for what seems like hours. You read books that tell you that you are a badass who can conquer all and become who you want to be. In this moment, you don’t feel very bad-assy at all.

You don’t know when the pain will subside. You don’t know if you will be the person that you were before the loss, or even if you want to be that person. You don’t know if there will ever come a day when tears won’t flow freely, or uncontrollably. Then, you begin to search for the place of balance between holding on and letting go.

There is Not a Right Way to Grieve

Grief is not linear. It does not fit in a box. There is no time frame in which the pain will subside. You may feel as though you are through the worst of it but then, there it is again…stealing your breath and crowding your heart.

While there is not a right way to grieve, there are strategies that can help you through this difficult time:

  • Recognize that the holidays will be different, and it will be rough.

  • Acknowledge that everyone grieves in their own way.

  • Decide if you want to keep the same traditions or make a change.

  • Feel the feelings that arise.

  • Tell people what you want to do and what you do not want to do for the holidays.

  • Ignore the “I should” voice…you do not have to do anything you do not want to do.

  • If you have the energy, give your time to a local charity.

  • Skip events that make you feel anxious.

  • Say yes to offers of help. You don’t have to do it all.

  • Let guilt go. If you don’t have the perfect tree or perfectly wrapped gifts, give yourself permission to accept things as they are in this moment.

If the holidays are especially tough, make an appointment with a counselor. Greif is unpredictable and it’s okay to admit you need a little extra support during this season. You are not alone.

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