Patient Education Blog

Posts for tag: holidays

By Heather Harris M.Ed.,LPC-S, NCC
November 18, 2016
Category: Counseling
Tags: holidays   grief   counseling   sadness   loss   depression  

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!


By Heather Harris M.Ed.,LPC-S, NCC
November 02, 2016
Category: Counseling
Tags: holidays   grief   counseling  

  If you’re like me (human) and this is your first holiday season after a death, divorce or loss, you’re likely trying to find ways to either skip festivities, pretend they aren’t coming, or you’re in complete denial. The rows of décor in all the stores send pangs of memories. It’s apparent that this season will be anything but easy as you leave the department store dabbing your eyes with tissue. This is grief.  And although you’d like to push past it, it’s far too powerful. The waves of memories and floods of reality simply overtake you at times.

  The truth is that the majority of people struggle during the first holidays after a loss. You should know that this is normal and to be expected. But, there are things you can do to prepare and help yourself and loved ones get through the holiday season when grief overshadows. Below are 10 excellent suggestions and tips to help you thrive and process grief more effectively during the holiday season.

1. Don’t isolate

 You may not feel like being around others. You may cringe at the thought of having to talk to friends or family members. You’re hurting and you’d rather be alone. You’d rather not talk about it.  But, isolation is dangerous when we grieve. It increases the pro

bability of becoming severely depressed. Identify your support group. Perhaps you should join a grief or divorce recovery group. Tell close friends or family that you may need help or encouragement to not isolate. Remember that others have gone through grief before you. Allow them to help you as you travel on your own grief path.

2. Watch the food and alcohol consumption

 Food and alcohol are typically abundant during the holiday season and can easily become the ‘go to’ coping mechanism for the grieving. (Darn dopamine!) Beyond the obvious repercussions of weight gain and potential addiction is the far more destructive one: numbing pain temporarily and beginning a pattern of never truly working through difficult emotions. Enjoy your holiday food and drink; but, keep it in check. Notice your eating and drinking patterns. Are you eating more or consuming more alcohol when you feel upset, angry or lonely? If so, begin to replace those negative coping skills with healthier ones. Try taking a walk outside, writing about your feelings, listening to uplifting music, or calling a friend instead.

3. Make a daily list of gratitude: Don’t succumb to self-pity

   The practice of making a daily gratitude list can facilitate in the recognition of blessings and joys in everyday life. In self-pity mode we tend to focus on all that’s ‘wrong’ or ‘lacking’ in our world. Practicing intentional gratitude can promote the grieving through the holidays in a thankful attitude for all the goodness in the past, present blessings, and hope for the future.

4. Talk to the children about grief

  Children are likely to be overlooked when there is death, divorce, or loss in a family. They may appear as if they are ‘just fine’ but most people aren’t aware that children often process emotions differently than adults. Children tend to talk much less about their feelings. Rather they will act them out in play, art, or behaviors. Compassionately talking with children to assure them that it’s ‘ok’ to feel sad, to talk about the person who is missing, or to express any emotions (in healthy ways) will increase the likeliness that they will feel understood and validated. Allow children to express their grief in their own way without judgment or expectations of what that should look like. Redirect destructive behaviors by verbalizing suggestions for healthy alternative coping skills. Focus on helping to identify the feelings they may be having. Playing with them will allow them to process through grief at their own pace. If you notice that there are major changes in sleeping, eating or behavioral patterns, it may be necessary to seek professional help.

5. Acknowledge and remember

  It’s the elephant in the room. No one wants to say their name or bring attention to the obvious hole. The avoidance of talking about the person, the memories, the pain of the loss doesn’t help in the healing process. Instead, it may cause feelings of loneliness, frustration, or anger. Talk openly about the person who is missing. Acknowledge the pain of the holiday without them. Recall holiday memories. Give permission to yourself and others to embrace the grieving process by acknowledging and remembering.