The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, but not everyone embraces the season with eagerness and a happy heart. Those who suffer grief over the death of a loved one often dread the holidays, when feelings of loss can be most powerful. Fortunately, there is hope--and help--for holiday grievers. Not only can grief be managed and eased during the holidays, it's possible to endure the season with a healthy dose of optimism.
Trying to dodge grief at holiday time is normal, but it won't help you heal, according to grief experts. Letting yourself feel the pain of loss will. You don't have to be upbeat and accommodating just because it's the season to be jolly. Better to focus on getting through each day in the way that works best for you, whether that means participating in every holiday event or only a few. Never worry what others think; true friends and family understand your struggle.
Shifting your focus from your grief to memories of your lost loved one can be uplifting, and there's no better time than the holidays to do it. Why not start a memory book about the loved one, using stories shared by family members at your holiday gathering? Or, decorate an outdoor tree in a unique way to honor the person you lost. Even simple gestures, like lighting a candle or posting a tribute online, can bring optimism to you and others during the holiday season.
Grief coupled with the stress of the holidays can be hard on your physical health. The last thing you want is to get sick during a time that's already difficult. Make an effort to eat right, get rest, and exercise during the holiday season. Many foods and beverages served at holiday functions aren't exactly ideal for the health-conscious, so be careful with your choices. Good physical health helps eliminate depression, anxiety, fatigue, and other common side effects of grief.
Although it may feel like you're the only person around who's void of holiday cheer, you're not. Many people suffer hardship during the holidays. They may not be grieving the loss of a loved one, but rest assured, people have problems that dampen their holiday spirit. You may find comfort and hope by helping someone else cope with their challenges. At the very least, knowing that others share similar anguish helps alleviate loneliness and guilt over not enjoying the season.
One good thing about the holiday season for the grief-stricken: it's short. Before you know it, you'll be facing the New Year. But then what? How about putting a plan in place for January. A new year is a time for fresh beginnings. Lean on that philosophy and consider something inspiring you'd like to do in January--learn a new language, start a remodeling project, or adopt a rescue dog. With a plan in place, you can anticipate the New Year with encouragement rather than gloom.
Grief can make the holidays anything but joyful. Don't let a heavy heart smother your hope. Follow the above tips, and turn grief into optimism that will carry you into the New Year.