While the holiday season is a time of cheer for many, for others, the loss of family members can be difficult to overcome. This time of year makes it hard to ignore an empty seat at the holiday table.
Fortunately, with the help of support groups and professional mental health help, you can find ways to surpass your depression and overcome feelings of grief. If you’re suffering from grief and loss over the holiday season, below are some ways you can find that holiday cheer again and make the most of your holiday season.
Is it Normal To Grieve During the Holiday Season?
While you’re sitting around the holiday dinner table, you might be wondering why you can’t seem to stop thinking about your loved one who passed away. You might feel guilty for not being in the holiday spirit, or you may even feel like something is wrong with you.
The truth is, it’s perfectly normal to grieve during the holiday season. The holidays are a time when memories are often brought to the surface. This can be especially true if it’s the first holiday season without your loved one. For instance, holiday routines and traditions like hanging up holiday decorations or Christmas music might remind you of a lost family member.
On top of that, the holidays can be a trigger for those who have suffered any type of loss. The loss of a job, a pet, or even a home can all lead to feelings of sadness and grief during this special time of year. If any part of your holiday ritual changes, it’s no wonder you might have difficulty coping with grief.
Is My Grief Serious?
Many people suffering from depression and grief often fear that there’s something wrong with them, or that they’re going crazy. They may have thoughts such as:
- Should I be over this by now?
- Why can’t I just be happy?
- What’s wrong with me?
- Am I a bad person?
These thoughts are common among those suffering from grief and depression. It’s important to understand that there is nothing wrong with you for feeling the way you do. Your grief is real, and it’s a natural response to loss. Coping with grief is never easy, and it can be especially hard to participate in holiday celebrations while there are so many painful reminders of the loved one you have lost.
Grief During the Holidays and Mental Health
In addition, studies have shown that grief and bereavement is associated with severe psychological distress and symptoms like:
- Loss of appetite
- Intrusive thoughts
- Withdrawal from social activities and family/friends
It’s also important that you understand that your grief doesn’t have to be all-consuming. You might experience waves of grief. While it might feel like it at times, grief is a natural and normal part of the healing process. In time, your grief will lessen, and you’ll be able to focus on the positive aspects of your life once again.
What Can I Do To Lessen My Grief During the Holiday Season?
There are lots of things you can do to help lessen your grief during the holiday season. Here are some ideas to help you get started on your journey toward grief recovery.
Recognize the Stages of Grief
It’s important to note that grief presents itself in stages. These stages are often abbreviated as DABDA, and include:
- Denial: Denial is a defense mechanism that helps us to cope with the pain of loss. Denial is often characterized by thoughts such as, “This can’t be happening,” or “I can’t believe he’s gone.”
- Anger: Once the initial shock of loss has worn off, we often become angry. This anger might be directed at ourselves, our loved ones, God, or the world in general. We might find ourselves feeling irritable, impatient, and even aggressive.
- Bargaining: During this stage, we often try to make deals with God or the universe in an attempt to change the outcome of our loss. For example, we might say things like, “If only I had been there sooner,” or “If only I had said no.”
- Depression: As we begin to accept our loss, we might start to feel depressed. We might lose interest in activities we once enjoyed, have trouble sleeping, and withdraw from our loved ones.
- Acceptance: In this final stage of grief, we come to terms with our loss. We accept that our loved one is gone, and we begin to rebuild our lives without them.
It’s important to understand that these stages are not linear. You might move back and forth between them before finally reaching acceptance. In addition, recognizing the stage you’re currently in can help you better understand your feelings and where you are in the grieving process and set realistic expectations for your healing process. That being said, it’s not always necessary to experience all of these stages, and the grieving process can look different for everyone.
Tips For Coping With Grief During the Holidays
There are steps you can take to help ease your way through the stages of grief. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah, Eid, or nothing at all, it is possible to honor your loved one’s memory and still share holiday cheer with family and friends.
Join a Grief Support Group
If you’re feeling isolated and alone, consider joining a grief support group. This can be an excellent way to connect with others who are going through a similar experience. Grief support groups provide a safe space for you to share your thoughts and feelings, and they can offer invaluable support and guidance.
In addition, grief support groups can help you to:
- Feel less alone
- Share your story
- Learn about the grieving process
- Meet others who are facing similar losses
- Make new friends
If you’re interested in finding a grief support group in your area, contact Clear Behavioral Health. We can help point you in the right direction.
Talk to a Therapist
If you’re struggling to cope with your grief, consider talking to a therapist. A therapist can provide support and guidance as you navigate the grieving process. In addition, therapy can help you to:
- Learn healthy coping skills
- Work through your feelings
- Explore your beliefs about grief
- Address any unresolved issues
- Build a support system
If you’re not sure where to start, consider talking to your doctor. They might be able to refer you to a therapist or grief counselor in your area.
While not always the case, grief and depression during the holidays might be a sign of SAD, also known as seasonal affective disorder. SAD is a type of depression that occurs during the fall and winter months.
SAD can cause a number of symptoms, including:
- Feelings of sadness or hopelessness
- Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Withdrawal from friends and family
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
If you’re struggling with SAD, there are a number of treatment options available. Light therapy, medication, and psychotherapy are all effective treatments for SAD. For instance, medications like SSRIs can be effective in treating the symptoms of SAD. If you think you might be struggling with SAD, talk to your doctor. They can help you to find the treatment that’s right for you.
Write About Your Grief
Writing about your grief can be a great way to release pent up emotions and process your thoughts and feelings. Journaling can also help you to make sense of your grief and track your progress as you move through the stages of grief.
In addition, writing about your grief can help you to:
- Work through your thoughts and feelings
- Make sense of your experience
- Track your progress
- Identify your triggers
If you’re not sure where to start, consider writing about:
- Your relationship with the person who died
- How you’re feeling since their death
- What you miss about them
- Any happy memories you have of them
- Anything else that’s on your mind
Remember that there’s no right or wrong way to start journaling. However, you can take time by setting aside some time each day to write. If you find that you’re struggling to get started, try setting a timer for five minutes and writing down whatever comes to mind. This flow of thought can help you to get started. Here is a link to a list of journal topics that can also help you get the ball rolling.
Create New Traditions
Sometimes, we have to accept that the holiday season will never be the same now that our loved one is gone. Trying to carry out old traditions just doesn’t feel right, and we have to find a new way to celebrate. Holiday celebrations are the most fun when they’re done with family and friends, invite them to celebrate new traditions with you.
Take Time for Yourself
It’s important to make time for yourself when you’re grieving. This can be a difficult time, and it’s important to give yourself the space and time you need to heal. For instance, meditation can be a great way to relax and refocus your thoughts. In addition, exercise can help to improve your mood and reduce stress.
Other ways to take care of yourself include:
- Getting plenty of rest
- Eating a healthy diet
- Avoiding alcohol and drugs (especially during the holiday season)
- Spending time outside
- Staying connected to your friends and family
- Doing things you enjoy
Making time for yourself can be difficult, especially if you’re also taking care of others. However, it’s important to make your own well-being a priority. If other family members are also grieving, try to take turns taking care of each other. This can help to ensure that every family member gets the support they need.
Find the Grief Support You Need at Clear Behavioral Health
This holiday season, if you find yourself struggling with grief, know that you’re not alone. The team at Clear Behavioral Health can help you to work through your grief in a healthy way. We offer a variety of programs and services, including individual therapy, group therapy, and holistic therapies. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you heal this holiday season.