6 Tips For Dealing With Loss During The Holidays

If you’re mourning someone this holiday season, these tips may help you get through.

This is Day 7 of The Establishment’s 12 Days of Holiday Self Care series. You can read Day 1 here, Day 2 here, Day 3 here, Day 4 here, Day 5 here and Day 6 here.

The holidays can be a wonderful time full of love, light, and laughter. But if you are missing a departed loved one, the holidays can also be extremely painful. If you are mourning someone this holiday season, these tips may help you get through the next couple of days that are often full of reminders of times past.

Be sad. I know that this doesn’t seem helpful on the surface, but the truth is, many people don’t allow themselves to feel sad over the holidays. But if you are missing someone, it makes you sad, and acknowledging it and just sitting with it for a while won’t make it worse, it will simply honor your feelings and give you a few moments where you aren’t fighting it.

Embrace ritual. I’m not a religious or sentimental person in the slightest, but I firmly believe in the healing power of bringing those you miss into important events. Do you have a dish your mother used to cook? Is there a funny saying your cousin used to say? Incorporating these little things can be a comforting way to acknowledge your loss and celebrate a life lived. This year, my mother bought my son a pair of shoes just like the ones his grandpa used to wear. My son misses him terribly and it was a wonderful way for all of us to remember him through the joy on my son’s face.

Set your boundaries. What do you really need right now? Do you need people to stop asking you how you’re holding up? Do you need people to stop bringing up your loss? Do you just need a little time alone? Communicate this clearly to your friends and family and they will appreciate knowing how to best help you.

Remember: everybody grieves differently. You may need to process your grief alone, your brother may need to make jokes, your mom may need to cry while washing the dishes. We all have our own way of dealing with loss, and it’s all valid. If someone is reacting to loss in a way that seems strange or even disrespectful to you, remember that every person is trying to do what they need to get through the hard times, and we all need different things.

Cancel the holidays. If you can’t bear the thought of getting together tonight around the tree or ringing in the New Year, reschedule it for later, cancel it altogether, or cut out early. Hand over your gifts and simply say, “I am not able to celebrate right now. I love you all, and will celebrate you later, when I can emotionally afford to be present.” And don’t feel bad about this, you are doing what’s right for you and in the long run, that will be best for all those who love you.

Don’t be afraid to reach out. You won’t spoil anyone’s holiday by sharing your feelings. Loss is something we all share on one level or another. The holidays are about love and family and friendship, and being there for each other during hard times is part of that and to be celebrated. If you need to talk, if you need someone in the room while you cry, if you need a hug, there is never a better time to ask.

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