coping with grief over the holidays

Coping with grief is hard. Coping with grief during the holidays can be even harder. Whether you are someone dealing with grief or helping a loved one deal with their grief, it is important to know that every feeling is okay, emotions do not need to be hidden. No matter when the loss has occurred, whether it be years ago or days ago, the holidays can be a time that grief is very evident. 

Understand the grieving process

The grieving process has no time limit, every person goes through the process at a different rate. There are 5 stages of grief we go through when loss occurs in our lives. The stages can be different for every individual, but understand these feelings are completely normal and you are entitled to all of them. The stages are:

  • Denial/Isolation: Denying that an incident has occurred (accident, death, suicide). Feeling shocked and numb about what has happened. 
  • Anger: After denial, when the emotion has set in, it is normal for people to lash out at others trying to help them. It’s natural to want to blame someone or something for the loss. 
  • Bargaining: This stage is common when terminal illness is a factor in the loss. People may ask “what if we had done something sooner”, “what if we had made better choices earlier in life.”
  • Depression: The depression stage is where there is a higher chance of developing an exhausting form of grief and of lasting the longest. During this stage people will feel an overwhelming amount of sadness that feels like it might never end. Depression is a very normal part of grief, and also the most important stage to work through. 
  • Acceptance: This is the stage that people in the grieving process hope to reach. This is when the acceptance of loss is known, and you can make peace with what has happened. In this stage people find a way to move on with their lives, while still missing what has been lost but knowing you can carry on in life. 

Don’t be afraid to talk about it 

Talking to your family and friends about your grief when they are not feeling the same emotions can be hard. Sometimes they may not know how to talk to you and that makes it harder to approach someone. More often than not, someone talking to a person in the grieving process will try to avoid saying the name of the deceased or avoid telling stories that have anything to do with them. This is not what someone grieving wants. It can really help for others to acknowledge what has happened to bring you closer to accepting your loss. 

Allow yourself to feel emotions 

Know that every emotion you are feeling is part of the grieving process and completely warranted. Pushing away these feelings whether it’s anger, sadness, or guilt know that they are all there to bring you closer to accepting the loss that you have endured. During the holidays it is okay if you need to step out, take a break or cut visits short because you are feeling an overwhelming amount of emotions.  Just remember that it is normal to feel this way.

Honor the memories

The holidays are a time to remember past holidays and reminisce with loved ones. It is good to remember the time you had with them, it is also a great idea to make a holiday monument to respect their memory. Sometimes making an ornament, wreath or other decoration that you can put up in your home can help you feel like they are still there with you over the holiday season. Don’t hold back on telling stories that include whomever you are grieving, this can help you feel more joy about their memory. 

Do you want to tell others how they can support you?  

check out a great video by Megan Devine: how do you help a grieving friend?

(Click on the picture to watch the video)

How do you help a grieving friend?