Coping with Loss During the Holidays
This year hasn’t been easy for anyone and you may be experiencing the lack of human interaction that you once enjoyed since we can’t gather like we used to. On top of that, humans are social creatures. We require connection as much as we need food or shelter. As a result, you may be feeling lonely, detached, or even isolated from those you love.
Many Americans are facing this conundrum.
Being responsible members of society can lead us to a place of advanced solitude. The more introverted of us may love the implied distance involved in life these days, but not everyone does. And that’s okay.
Making Hard Times Harder
If you’ve lost someone, as thousands of families in the United States have this year, you may be feeling the weight of your grief as we enter this holiday season. Spending time with family is emphasized this time of year that it is hard to deal with feelings of loss healthily.
Loss, grief, and loneliness are powerful feelings. Alone they are formidable, but in unison, they are unbearable. Please know you’re not alone in feeling this. Sadly, the 2020 holiday season is going to be like no other.
Knowing this sad fact, our licensed therapists have put together their best tips to help you through this difficult time.
How can we cope with loss and loneliness during the holidays?
Loneliness is defined as the feeling of sadness brought on by the separation from others. At the same time, grief and sadness are feelings created by bereavement, suffering the death of a loved one. Cycling through the grieving process is an important part of healing after the loss of a loved one. It would be best if you took your time with your grief.
Read more about the 7 therapist-approved tips for coping with loss during the holidays below.
There are a lot of expectations surrounding the holidays. This year has made us encounter a series of problems, usually spread over the course of a decade. So it’s become increasingly important that you take care of yourself.
Times will be tough, and you may have many more hurdles that you’ll have to face. Take time for your feelings and prioritize your mental health.
It’s like that saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” It’s true. The better you care for yourself, the better you will fare against the hardships life doles out, regardless of your loss.
1. Connect With Others.
Ask for what you need. Reach out to friends and family and find out what they’re doing over the holidays so that you can connect and spend time, even if at a distance. Don’t be afraid to speak about what you are feeling.
Use this time to deepen connections with those you’d like to be closer to. Likewise, remember to allow others to connect with you. Share your feelings with someone you trust and receive their support.
Consider, too, those in need. Giving back is a great way to realize your actions’ positive impact and make you feel more connected to your community. Practicing empathy toward others makes you more empathetic to yourself.
You don’t have to be perfect to make a difference in someone’s life! Consider a family member in more unfortunate circumstances than yours and donate gifts or items they may be lacking. You might also get involved in the community or volunteer to help at a shelter.
Someone you know might also be feeling lonely, or the impact of loss. Reach out to them as well. You never know what others may be facing. Your gesture may be just the thing they needed today.
2. Set Realistic Goals for Yourself.
There’s no law saying you have to be filled with joy all the time, especially during THIS time.
Don’t force your feelings. Remember that healing is not linear. You will have lows, and you will have highs. There is no need to push yourself just for the sake of the festivities this holiday season; the important thing is that you feel better, and that will take time.
And never forget you are a unique person. So you have no reason to do what others do “just because” it’s the holidays. You may be asked, directly or indirectly, to put your feelings aside for this event or that ceremony. Do what feels best for you.
You may also acknowledge that it’s okay to feel low or lonely and let go of the shame associated with holiday unhappiness, whether it’s related to grief or not. In fact, in surveys of people’s feelings over the holiday season, over half the responders report experiencing loneliness during this time of year.
You’re not alone in feeling alone!
This is especially important to recognize if you have experienced loss. You have been dealing with abnormal amounts of stress and sorrow. Don’t push yourself for the sake of the season’s expectations.
3. Practice Self-Care and Healthy Habits.
If your loss is fresh, take it one day at a time. It may seem all you can do is survive the season. If you can, take some time off work for yourself. COVID may have done this one for you due to local restrictions and regulations.
If that is the case, take advantage of the time you have been given by these circumstances.
Allow yourself to slow down and explore coping strategies that will assist in your healing process. Try to write holiday cards to people who matter, accept one or two invitations to gather at a distance, but be safe, and do no more than you can handle.
Meet your need for belonging without overwhelming you with reminders of your loss.
Also, recognize that self-care and compassion are your most important gifts this season. Make time for yourself. You should never feel bad about practicing –and prioritizing — self-care. Self-love is the way to truly loving others!
Studies show that spending time in nature and even hugging trees can help be another beneficial form of self-care besides those you already practice.
4. Establish Some Routine while Coping With Loss.
Specifically, a routine unrelated to the holidays will help remind you that all the festivity is just temporary. Keep eating well, exercising, brushing your teeth, and make sure you’re getting enough sunlight. Add an extra lamp on your desk at home or work if it seems dark to help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
The routine will help you feel grounded and present as loneliness in the wake of loss is painful and can lead to unhealthy habits. Chocolate may seem comforting, but overindulging in it will result in a high leading to a dramatic mood crash.
Take advantage of the resources you have available to you. Stay hydrated, remember to shower, schedule a time to rest, and be present with your feelings if you feel overwhelmed or sad.
5. Don’t Let the Holiday Dictate Your Recovery
Just because this season demands rushing about spreading joy and happiness, feeling grateful and nostalgic, doesn’t mean you have to. You might not be ready. Don’t rush your recovery. There is no need.
You are in charge of your recovery process. Don’t be fooled by cheerful ads and holiday specials on TV touting how magical of a time this is. Your holiday season can still be one of felicity, but let it be on your schedule, not society’s.
If you have a hard time being alone, let your friends and family know. The important thing is to be honest and seek support for what you’re feeling.
Also, don’t ignore grief or bury your loneliness. This leads to unhealthy coping mechanisms.
Instead, look at your emotions, identify them, and decide to deal with them. Accepting the help of those who want to be there for you may alleviate loneliness and enrich these trying times. Perhaps you may try to join a support group as it may help you process your loss with like-minded people can remind you that you’re not alone as well.
Respect your right to adjust, redefine, and reject holiday customs that are painful triggers or no longer work in your current life.
Dr. Kristen Neff, a self-compassion researcher and the author of Self-Compassion, says that “having compassion for yourself means that you honor and accept your humanness.” Loss is hard. You are only human.
Step back for a moment and notice what you are genuinely feeling. Permit yourself to feel every single thing, even the uncomfortable. Validate and see your feelings without becoming engulfed by them, without fear. Your feelings are real and important.
Imagine what you might say to a friend who was feeling similarly and offer yourself those same words of compassion and support. You can’t change the loss or the hurt you may be feeling, but you can change the way you relate to yourself.
Recovery from loss is a process.
7. Focus Less on Holiday Customs and More on Complete Healing.
If the holidays continue to be a stumbling block to your happiness, don’t participate. You have the right to focus on your own needs right now. Connect with a professional who can help you deal with your grief and alleviate feelings of invisibility or feeling left out of meaningful interactions.
It’s okay to put the holiday festivities on the back burner for the sake of healing. If recovery from loss is a process, then loneliness needn’t last forever.
Resolve to take the first step. Reach out and share what you’re going through with a trusted loved one or therapist experienced with grief and depression. Be patient with yourself. Extend the season’s goodwill and kindness to your own circumstance.
In time, you can move through this healthy, whole, and eventually happy to embrace the holidays again.
‘Tis the season to observe, accept, and let go
Your first impulse may be to deny your new holiday reality, avoid the truth of change, or push away the full import of your loss and loneliness. This, of course, leads to more hurt, withdrawal, and even darker moods.
To recover from loss well, grieve well. It’s okay to allow space for your pain. Feel the weight of it.
Coping with loss, in addition to all of the other challenges of this year, is not going to be easy. Grief and loss will have a good deal of pain involved, but we encourage you to let it out. Feel all the elements of this loss, whether that be the loss of connection, cultural tradition, or someone you loved.
It’s okay to cry or yell. It’s OK to be sad, angry, lonely, or guilty.
Take the time to honor your emotions. Feel them, journal, and share them honestly and fully. Then, let them pass.
If you are struggling with grief and depression this holiday season, don’t try to handle it alone. Call us today at 832-559-2622 for more information or click here to schedule an appointment online. We are here to lend support and aid you in your journey to healing.
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