Feelings of Grief do not take a Break for the Holidays
If you would like some support in managing the impact of significant loss and/or major life changes during this time of holiday festivities, please read below.
Holidays, anniversaries, and other commemorative days can be difficult, anxiety-provoking, and even depressing for many who have experienced a recent loss or even a not so recent loss.
Loss of a loved one to death, loss of a partner to divorce, loss of an unborn baby to miscarriage, loss of a home to disaster such as flood, hurricane or fire, and loss of a job, the ability to earn one’s livelihood – all of these are considered significant losses that impact the psyche with indelible memories accompanied by distressing feelings.
And this year, 2020, with this unprecedented pandemic experience, grieving of lifestyle, of customs, of rituals, even the ability to grieve in meaningful ways, has exponentially added to the challenges of managing loss in a meaningful way.
Grief is the emotion associated with loss and grieving is the process through which the loss is experienced and eventually managed.
Some losses are accompanied by more shock effect/tragedy than others – accidents, natural disasters, sudden health emergencies, while some are expected, over a period of time. Whether sudden or expected, all losses are accompanied by grieving in some form or fashion. Even when losses are expected and accepted in a positive manner, adjustment to the loss involves some level of grieving, nostalgic contemplation, or sadness.
What I’ve come to realise over my several decades of practice as a psychotherapist, combined with my own life experiences, is that the impact of loss cannot be measured, cannot be quantified, cannot be compared or standardized. Each person’s experience of loss is unique to them. Each individual feels, thinks and grieves in a way that only they can fully comprehend.
As the holiday season is once again upon us many people may find themselves struggling mentally and emotionally to navigate the expectations that this brings, the festivities, the celebrations, the charitable activities, the shopping and gift-giving, the religious worship. Whether commemorating Christmas, Divali, Eid, Hannukah, Kwanza, Old Years, New Years, Birthdays, Anniversaries, it can be challenging to continue with family traditions and enjoy social celebrations while facing the impact of significant loss.
Discussing some of these challenges and struggles with someone close to you or with a professional counsellor can be helpful in developing some coping strategies to manage the demands of the holiday season in an appropriate and meaningful manner.
Here are some tips:
1. Make self-care a priority. Be patient and kind with yourself, as you would be with a friend in the same situation.
2. Acknowledge your feelings and recognize that:
Many find maintaining their old traditions and honouring their loss meaningful, while others find developing new rituals or celebrating in a totally different way or at a different location, more helpful.
4. Give yourself permission to say no to invitations/activities if you don’t feel ready
5. Give yourself permission to say yes to involvement in festivities without feeling guilt. Grieving and honouring loss doesn’t mean that you have to be sad all the time.
6. Children are people too. Provide them with support and understanding. Give them permission to grieve as well as permission to enjoy the holidays. Allow them to express their thoughts and feelings and help them to find meaningful ways to manage the experience of loss.
7. As the saying goes, “talking is the most healing medicine” for emotional pain. Sharing memories and telling stories about a lost loved one helps to honour them and integrate them into the celebration.
8. Some suggestions on which you can build your own meaningful practices:
The stress of the holidays will soon be over. Remember to make self-care first a priority, self-nurturing, self-soothing and self-reflection will help to keep things in balance.
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Lystra Mahabir-Mongroo BA/BSW, MSW.