Coping with Holiday Grief

The holiday season is considered “the most wonderful time of the year.” Typically during this time of the year people tend to be more relaxed, take off time from work, and spend quality time with loved ones.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that for many people the holiday season is difficult and often times depressing. What’s considered “the most wonderful time of the year” from a commercial standpoint is the “most dreadful time of the year” in reality. This is because during the holidays many people are mourning the loss of loved ones, they’re lonely, and they have a void that holiday cheer cannot fill. Holiday grief is real and you may know someone who suffers from it (even yourself).

I’ll be transparent with my experience with holiday grief. On December 9, 2006 my grandmother passed away and I promise you a piece of me passed with her. She was my best friend. I loved her (still do) to the moon and back, and honestly I never imagined her dying. NEVER. At least not that soon. Her siblings lived until their late 80s/early 90s so I figured I had my grandma for at least 10 more years, but she died at 80 and my world was shattered.
I saw my grandmother for Thanksgiving that year in North Carolina and everything seemed fine. She was the same old grandma. Our last movie we watched together was “Lean on Me” and I cannot bring myself to watch the movie even today – almost 10 years later. I was scheduled to have surgery on December 15th which ended up being the day we buried her, and I was going to be on bed rest for a few weeks. We had it planned. I remember telling my grandma that we were going to talk everyday while I was home, but it never happened. I honestly don’t even remember Christmas that year. I can’t tell you what I did or where I was, but I know my grandma wasn’t there. Almost 10 years later I still haven’t spent a holiday in North Carolina. I’m sure one day I will, but it hasn’t happened yet.  Since her passing, other family members transitioned as well, but her passing was literally during the holidays and it didn’t make the season “wonderful” to me.
However, over time, I’ve had enjoyable holiday seasons so the anguish I felt 10 years ago doesn’t feel as bad. I’m able to cope with it better and you can too. I’m not a psychologist, but here is a little encouragement and some tips on what you can do this holiday season to cope or help someone cope with holiday grief.
1.       Practice self-care and do something you love. You’re no good to anyone if you’re not taking care of yourself. Self-care includes proper nutrition, exercise, as well as doing something that you love. Think about doing something that you haven’t done in awhile. It could be something as simple as going to a movie, finishing a book, painting etc. I use to play the Sims on my PC all the time and it’s been at least two years since I played. This year I will add playing the Sims game as a must-do for the holiday season.
2.       Surround yourself with people who genuinely care about you. This is so important when dealing with any type of grief. You should be able to feel comfortable being transparent with your feelings without fear of being judged. If you cannot be transparent, then these are not the people to be around during the holidays. You need positively energy and a positive environment.
3.       Turn your pain into purpose. Through your grief you can help somebody else who is also suffering from holiday grief this season.
4. Find a local organization to volunteer your time or look into visiting children who have to spend the holidays at hospitals. You can be the reason someone smiles this season.
But most of all cherish the memories that you have of your loved ones knowing that one day you will be reunited with them again.
I hope this season brings you joy, peace, and love.
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