The holiday season can be a very difficult time for families who have experienced loss. Watching others celebrate can be painful and sometimes overwhelming especially as you learn to navigate holiday traditions your loved one was once there for.
Although most of us experience some sort of grief in life, the grieving process is different for everyone. Some may feel an insurmountable wave of emotions, and others may feel numb to their surroundings. In any case, coping with sorrow in a joyous environment can be a major challenge for those grieving the loss of a loved one.
Read on for tips to help you or someone you know cope with grief during the holidays.
1. Find Support in Loved Ones
The holiday season is for spending time with loved ones. If you have the opportunity for extra time with family and loved ones, don’t hesitate to share how you’re feeling—most will be happy to help. Friends and relatives are a great support system during times of grief.
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), denying loss is an easy way to isolate yourself and frustrate your support system in the process. When you talk about the passing of a loved one, it helps you remember the memory of the loved one you lost.
One way to actively seek the loving support of family and friends is to hold a remembrance event. A remembrance event is a type of memorial service held in honor of a loved one that helps others celebrate his or her memory. Check out this resource for creative ways to memorialize your loved one during the holidays.
2. Continue Shared Traditions
You likely have joyful memories of holiday traditions shared with your loved one. While it may seem painful to even think about continuing these traditions without your loved one, it can help you relive joyous memories shared by you and your family.
For example, Richard Beebe always had a love of Christmas growing up. However, after losing both his wife and daughter, he spent years grieving. Although the grieving continues, he now celebrates and honors the same traditions he once enjoyed with them—singing Christmas carols and spending the holiday with his wife’s family—to help press on and continue to heal.
You can introduce new friends and family to your traditions or continue them alone. Whichever you decide, remembering the traditions and cheerful times you spent together can help you through your grieving process.
3. Try New Coping Mechanisms
While grieving is a deeply personal experience that is felt differently from person to person, there are healthy ways to cope with loss, regardless of what symptoms of grief you’re experiencing.
Research shows that keeping a journal during a time of mourning can help people process what they are feeling and ultimately cope with their loss. Grief journaling can help by offering opportunities to:
- Explore your feelings and fears.
- Record your journey through the process.
- Construct a written remembrance of your loved one.
Not everyone feels comfortable expressing their feelings about loss—you may be someone who gains peace from hearing from someone with similar experiences. Consider listening to one of these grief and bereavement podcasts or grab a book from this list to help you cope with your loss.
4. Make a Difference
The holiday season is all about giving. Whether it’s donating to a charity or giving spare change, donating helps us give back to those in need, especially during the holiday season.
Similarly, working to improve the lives of others helps take the focus away from our own grief. In a study by the UnitedHealth Group, the majority of survey participants said they felt mentally and physically healthier after volunteering. Moreover, many of the participants cited mood improvement, lower stress levels and an enriched sense of purpose.
Consider volunteering at a food bank, homeless shelter or soup kitchen. You can also use this resource to search for a volunteering opportunity near your community.
One non-profit close to our family is The Lost Hearts Foundation. Its mission is to help children who have lost a parent “live their normal” through activities, sports, education or extracurricular involvement. Learn more here.
Interested in More Ways to Cope With Grief?
For advice on how to cope with grief or how to help others cope with grief after the loss of a loved one—as well as memorialization and monument resources—subscribe to our email newsletter today.