By Karen Vaughn, MEd, LPC, CEAP, SAP
It seems like there is one part of the year where we are hit with multiple holidays all at the same time: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s and Valentine’s Day -- all within a three to four month timeframe.
Here it is that time of year again!
The holidays can be stressful within themselves, with all of the preparations, events and commitments. But for those who have experienced the loss of a close loved one, it can be even more stressful.
What makes the holidays more difficult than other times? Research has shown that it is because the holidays are usually a time when the hustle and bustle of everyday life shuts down and focus on the family and loved ones take priority. Since the holidays are about memories, celebrating traditions and remembering those of significance, the absence of a loved one is felt much more acutely.
Everyone copes with loss and grief differently. Some connect with family and friends so as to not be alone. Others disconnect so to be left alone with their thoughts and memories. Some run from their thoughts and feelings by indulging in extracurricular activities. Others overindulge in high-risk behaviors such as the use of alcohol or drugs, shopping, being promiscuous and other behaviors that numb their feelings. What helps one may not help another. My advice for coping with loss is to make sure it is healthy and does not end up sabotaging you in the long run.
Here are some healthy ways to manage loss during the upcoming holidays:
- Share your feelings with others: Revealing your thoughts openly helps alleviate emotional pain.
- Maintain hope: Don’t run from your pain... Realize that you may face pain and be realistic. Know this too shall pass.
- Focus on what you have and not on what you don’t: Remember the good times and laugh about the fun times.
- Donate a gift in memory of the lost loved one.
- Buy a special ornament to hang on the Christmas tree.
- Create a memory scrapbook.
- And last but certainly not least, increase self-care activities, focusing on sleep, healthy eating and exercise. Remember -- you are not alone, we all have experienced loss!