7 Ways Of Coping With Loss & Grief During The Holidays

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Heartbreak

’Tis the season of bright lights, good tidings, joy, and gatherings — even though it's 2020 and they won’t be exactly the same for anyone.

Grief and the holidays seem more closely tied this year, more than ever.

If you’re in a season of mourning, the lights may dim in your darkness, there's likely silence from those who aren’t sure what to say, and messages from others of how you "should" be feeling.

Celebrations continue around you and photos appear on social media, all while you find it difficult to find anything to feel except your pain, anything to see except your loss.

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Whether you're coping with death, divorce, a relationship breakup, job loss, or another significant bereavement, you will grieve. And the holidays just remind you even more intensely that your life has changed.

"Coping" is an interesting word. It implies more than surviving — at least a step more. We start actually figuring out how to deal with challenges we encounter — and we do so in a manner that's thoughtful and, in the least, adequate.

Perhaps it means we can successfully rise to the occasion and manage through, even if it is a struggle on some level.

So, how do you cope with loss during the holidays?

Here are 7 strategies for managing grief during the holidays that I learned from my own experience with loss.

1. Know your "no."

You don’t have to be the life of the party, or even attend it — online or in person. Give yourself permission to "be" in a stage of grief that simply isn’t ready.

If your friends and family don't understand, they haven’t experienced what you're going through — and that’s OK. In fact, that’s good. And, it’s OK to not do what’s good for everyone else.

Do what’s good for you. What do you believe you need right now? Say "yes" to that and "no" to the rest.

You empower yourself when you recognize and claim your power of choice and honor your personal limits. Don’t be pressured to do what others believe you "should" be doing right now.

2. Grieve however you want to.

You're allowed to grieve on your own timeline and in your own way. 

Remember, it's a process, not an event. So, there's no set time to start or end, no right way or wrong way. You will learn there are better ways than others, but take the pressure off.

Just be careful of the temptation to numb your pain with "over" behaviors like drinking, eating, shopping, watching too much Netflix, working, etc.

Obviously, some are more detrimental to our health, some to our finances, some to our productivity, and all to our life balance.

3. Limit social media.

Why pour salt onto an open wound? If seeing smiling faces rockin’ around the Christmas tree reminds you of what you will not have in your life this year, don’t look!

While we're all happy for others, if we're mourning, too much of another person's good thing can keep us stuck in thoughts of our bad things.

Know that this time will pass. Eventually, your wound will become a scar if you nurture it and allow it to heal. Once it has, you will be able to celebrate others without being vulnerable to inflicting more pain on yourself.

4. Relish your favorite holiday traditions!

Don’t lose more than you already have. Maintain what's sentimental and special for you, and let go of the traditions you never enjoyed, anyway.

You may get emotional, so have some tissues and chocolates on hand. It’s OK.

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5. Create new traditions.

Life has changed! The realities of the holidays have changed.

You may find yourself also grieving the loss of a tradition, just as you are grieving the loss of a relationship, a dream of "how it was supposed to be."

Rather than feeling like you're missing out or dreading something, what can you do differently and embrace it as a "new" tradition in your new reality?

Is there something that you always wanted to do, but haven’t yet?

6. Take care of yourself.

Physically. Mentally. Spiritually. Move your body, challenge your mind, and feed your spirit.

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Perhaps past holidays were busy and a bit like seasonal fruitcake — a little bit of everything thrown in together!

Take a real "holiday." The Old English origins of the compound word "holiday" are "holy" plus "day."

So, perhaps dismissing the commercialism and frantic scheduling that may have been part of your previous experience, you can reconnect to the core meaning of the season for yourself.

It's a much needed time of reflection, relaxation, and renewal.

7. Forgive yourself and others.

If someone hasn’t experienced what you're going through, they likely will not know what to say, or say the wrong thing with all the right intentions.

Remember that anything anyone says or does, doesn’t say or doesn’t do, is about them, their fears, their insecurities, and their beliefs. Try to accept it as such.

Forgive them in your heart and mind. And while you are at it, forgive yourself for whatever expectation you had of yourself that you haven’t been able to meet just yet.

When it comes to grief and the holidays, keep facing forward, looking to the future. 

Remember that you're going through a time of mourning. You will arrive at the other side where healing, acceptance, and living continues.

You will know when you are ready for the next step.

However, if you feel stuck in grief and pain, your life is being adversely affected, you desire to move forward but can’t seem to find the way, reach out — that just may be the next best step for you.

My wish for all of you this holiday season is that while you embrace your grief, you also wrap yourself in hope.

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Ann Papayoti, PCC, is a life coach and author of The Gift of Shift.  If you are stuck in the pain or emotions around grief and loss, learn how Ann can help you by visiting her website at SkyView Coaching.

This article was originally published at skyviewcoaching.com. Reprinted with permission from the author.