I wrote a post last year that talked about how to deal with the holidays and the stress and overwhelm that they can bring here , and I wrote about grief here. Today’s post talks about how to deal with grief at the holidays. I am not talking about the generic sadness that can strike because imagined holiday joy is offset by the reality of dealing with family, or work, or horrible happenings in the world at large.
I am talking about the kind of grief that comes from spending your first holidays without the best friend, the child, the mother, the brother, the son, the daughter, the husband, the wife, the partner, the father, the grandfather, the grandmother, the auntie, the uncle, or sister that has left this world.
I am talking about the kind of grief and sadness that sneaks up on you randomly and delivers a heart crushing pain. It can be little things that trigger it, a familiar smell, a place that reminds you of them, a store display, a gift that you might have bought, lighting the candles, a song that you hear, an ornament, or a tradition that now seems empty.
I have lived a bit at this point in my life, and have had my share of holidays that were about getting through them rather than celebrating. I know that I have been fortunate to have more years where I have reveled in all that is wonderful and good and happy about the holidays. I know that this year many of my friends are trying to find a way through the holidays. This my letter to them, and to everyone who is trying to support them.
- Take care of yourself. Do what you need to do to feel better, even if that means that you are doing something completely different.
- Let yourself be as sad as you need to be, don’t try and stuff your feelings because you are afraid of making others uncomfortable.
- Do not self-medicate with alcohol and drugs. As hard as it is, feel your feelings, masking them with substances is not good for your health.
- Let others do for you. If you cannot get it together to do what you have always done, let someone else do it.
- Surround yourself with people that love you, birth family, or made family, whoever it is, let them love you.
- If you are considering self-harm, please, please, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ . They have online services that are there to help.
If you are the one trying to help someone that is struggling here are your five tips:
- Ask what you can do to help, and then do it.
- Do not change the subject if the person grieving wants to talk about their sadness, let them express how they are feeling. Listen.
- If you are concerned about how someone is handling their grief, ask them. It is okay to talk about being sad.
- Love them, even if they are not themselves, even if they are angry, moody, or cry a lot, hold them if they need/want it, give them space to feel what they are feeling.
- If you are concerned that the person is at risk for self-harm, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ . They have many resources, to help you help the person you are worried about.