6. Transform old traditions
Perhaps there were traditions that were special before grief eclipsed. It would be easy to ignore them this year, stop them altogether, and move on. Instead of avoiding in hopes of feeling less pain, continue traditions if possible. Make new memories in the “new normal” together. If you don’t feel comfortable keeping traditions as they were, or if the person missing was the key to the
tradition, consider transforming old traditions into new. Traditions contribute to a sense of comfort and belonging while creating lasting memories. Consider forming a new tradition in honor of a new start or in memory of a missing loved one.
7. Do something for others: Focus on being a blessing
The truth is that humans tend to be selfish and self-focused when hurting emotionally. When our focus is primarily on losses we have suffered, we miss joy that comes from giving to and loving others. Focusing less on ourselves enables opportunities to experience gratitude and joy in the midst of grief and suffering. Find someone who needs support during the holiday and invite them to lunch. Buy gifts for a needy family. Volunteer your time at a homeless shelter or soup kitchen. Giving of yourself will open up your world and will help to find meaning while suffering.
8. Practice self-care
Self-care is important during the grief process. I’m not speaking of self care that ignores the needs of others because ‘I’m busy with me’. Rather, healthy self-care helps identify, break, and prevent unhealthy cycles which impede healing. Here are excellent ideas for practicing healthy self-care:
- Journal about your feelings and goals for your future
- Pray and or meditate daily
- Go to Yoga classes to work out tense muscles and to learn to relax
- Get outside and walk while taking note of things for which you are grateful
- Listen to music that is beautiful, meaningful or uplifting
- Go to grief counseling or attend a grief support group
9. Seek professional help if the weight of grief impacts your ability to carry out daily activities
Grief can easily become major depression if not carefully monitored. Are you gaining or loosing weight quickly? Are you sleeping much more or less than usual? Do you find yourself unable to keep the focus required to complete imperative tasks for work or home? Are you neglecting personal hygiene or have you become fixated on being ‘hyper healthy’? If you begin to notice that you aren’t functioning normally from day to day because of intense negative thoughts or feelings, seek help immediately! You may be experiencing complicated grief that has morphed into full-blown depression. Medication and counseling may be needed to aid in your recovery.
10. Remember it’s ok to be happy and feel joyful when you’ve experienced a loss
In the middle of grief and loss there can be times of happiness, smiles and laughter. It’s not uncommon to feel guilty for feeling joy or being happy while grieving. You may feel inner conflict about your feelings. You may worry that enjoying life somehow invalidates the loss you have experienced or the memory of what was. Give yourself permission to heal at your own pace, to seek help in that process, and to be happy as you find a ‘new normal’. Being happy doesn’t mean that you have forgotten. It means that little by little you are beginning to heal.
Grief and loss are always difficult and holidays definitely complicate the process. Prepare yourself by choosing to be intentional during the holiday season and taking positive steps toward a healthier grief process. Think ahead and make a plan of action to implement on an unusually difficult day or moment. Consider going to a few counseling sessions to process your feelings and gain insight. Following these simple tips and being aware of potential emotional pitfalls will enable you to do more than survive the holiday season…you can thrive!