Fall weather marks the beginning of “Holiday season”. For many of us the holidays are filled with laughter, thoughtfully planned meals, and celebrations with friends and family. However, for those of you who have suffered a loss and are grieving, it may be more difficult to get in the holiday spirit. You should know that this is normal. Holidays remind us of our closest loved ones and have a way of prompting us to review the year that was. With covid-19 impacting most of us in one way or another, we are likely all grieving something this year.
Grief is commonly associated with death, but any significant loss can cause feelings of grief. Life changes such as unemployment, a decline in health, or severed social connections will likely result in some form of grief for many this year.
Although you may be tempted to ignore your grief by sticking to your holiday norms, my hope is that you will give yourself permission to grieve during this holiday season. Here are a few ways you can be intentional in processing your grief without being an accidental Scrooge.
Plan: Be selective about the events you want to attend (or not) and communicate your intentions with others early. Have a back up plan in case you become overwhelmed and would like to leave an event or gathering. If you ride with someone, prepare them for the possibility that you may need to leave or drive yourself. If large gatherings are difficult or you aren't ready to be around a specific guest, then don’t feel pressured to attend.
Change: If you have historically been responsible for the festivities this is the year to delegate some responsibilities. This holiday season is going to be different anyway so this is a good time to consider setting new holiday traditions and quitting old ones.
Remember: Talking about your loved one or your loss rather than ignoring your thoughts and feelings is important in processing your grief. Perhaps you want to find a more formal way of incorporating your loved one by making their favorite dish, setting a place at the table for them, lighting a candle, playing their favorite song, or sharing memories.
Give: Research reveals helping others increases the giver’s happiness and what better time to give than during the holidays. You may be inspired to give in honor of your loved one. Make a donation to their favorite charity in their name, volunteer with a local organization, or adopt a child/family in need.
Support: Grieving is difficult on its own and can feel especially overwhelming during the holidays. Seeking out professional support to help you navigate your grief is always a good idea.
It is possible to grieve your loss while enjoying the holiday season.
Sarah Jay Gray P-LPC is a counselor in Oxford serving Mississipians in-person and virtually. You can find her on instagram @sarahjaygray_counselor or contact her at email@example.com or 662-260-6543