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Dealing with grief during the holiday season

By Rachel Velishek • Nov 20, 2017 at 9:00 AM

Thanksgiving traditionally kicks off the holiday season and the attending of numerous social events and gatherings.

However, for those who have recently lost a loved one, the holiday season can be especially difficult when mourning that loss.

Social events or family gatherings may be painful reminders regarding the absence of a loved one. For some, those same gatherings might be comforting traditions to spend time with those who are near and dear.

Here are some things to help recapture your sense of joy, and keep in mind while mourning during the holiday season.

* Only do what feels right: You have the control over what you decide to do, activities you chose to engage in and traditions that you are able to handle. Don’t feel obligated to participate in any event or decorate interior and exterior of home exactly how it has been done in the past. If it does not feel doable, then do not do it.

* Accept your feelings: Everyone takes his or her own path to grieve. Your process of mourning may be completely different and that is okay. Some individuals may put forth effort to avoid sad feelings; others may have uncontrollable crying. Some feel guilt that they are not able to engage in the holiday traditions, or guilt for experiencing joy at this time. However you do feel, accept it, and know that it is okay. Your feelings belong only to you and you do not owe anyone an explanation for how you feel. It is important that you learn to accept the up and downs, not every day is a good day; one moment may be peaceful, and the next you may be sad or down in the dumps. It is important that you are honest with yourself and do not judge yourself for experiencing feelings.

* Talk with family and friends: Be honest with loved ones regarding emotions. Be honest with them on how you would like things to go. Let others know it is okay to talk about your deceased loved ones if that is what you want to do. Create an escape plan with a friend so you have a prepared plan if things become overwhelming in social situations.

* Plan ahead: For some people, the anticipation of an event is worse than the actual holiday. Engage in healthy methods of coping or comforting events the weeks and days prior to the holiday so that you have something continuously to look forward to. New activities may be easier, but some find comfort in familiar traditions.

* Give: The positive impact of giving to others may be a comfort in times of grief. People may often feel burdened, hopeless, helpless, or sadness in times of loss. Consider doing things that may make a difference to others. For example, purchasing something that symbolizes the person you lost and donating to a family in need or organization is a great way to honor your loved one while giving to others.

* Do something different: It is okay to acknowledge that things have changed, and this holiday will not be the same as it was. Developing realistic expectations and accepting this will help manage emotions over the holiday season. It is okay to plan something different, change the menu at the holiday dinner, volunteer, invite friends over, travel, but most importantly create new memories.

Remember, grieving takes time. There is no set timeline, list of rules or expectations regarding grief. You are vulnerable, so your need should be focused on functioning, doing all you can do to get through the day, week, or holiday season in a healthy way.


Rachel Velishek is a licensed professional clinical counselor with Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, Fisher-Titus Medical Park 2, Suite C, 282 Benedict Ave., Norwalk. For more information on Fisher-Titus Behavioral Health, visit fishertitus.org/behavioral-health.

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