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Dealing with grief and loss over the holiday season

Updated: Feb 20, 2022

Dealing with grief and loss over the holiday season can be a hard thing to navigate. It is a very emotional time…or a very numbing time. It’s hard…and that’s ok.

We can find ourselves lost in an emotional sea, being tossed around, not knowing what feeling is going to smack us next. It could be sadness, anger, happiness, guilt, anxiety…

No matter where you are on your grief journey, feeling these emotions and acknowledging them is important to do…and that will vary depending on where you are, what you are doing, who you are with or even what day of the week it is.

Each moment is going to be different, let alone each day. So give yourself grace and space and time. Grief does not have a time limit and it is not linear.

We miss our person, our pet, our relationship…perhaps we are mourning our past lifestyle or who we used to be before the ‘event’...and that is ok.

Expect less of yourself-truly. You aren’t the person you were a week ago, a month ago or even six months ago. Your focus and capacity to function are not the same. You may have been worse, you may have been better but how are you TODAY?

Perhaps you want to see people but not be in a crowd as that might be too overwhelming. It is ok to decline that invitation or even offer an alternative, “I would love to spend time with you…how about we go for a tea/coffee?”

That tradition/ritual/ceremony won’t be the same this year…perhaps a new one can be created.

So some cleaning has been forgotten or ignored…maybe sweeping one room or washing a plate is all you can handle today-that’s ok.

Extreme self-care…yes, that’s right…in small steps. Make a list of things that bring you joy and happiness. It doesn’t have to be a long list and you can always add to it but make that list so you don’t have to rely on your memory. Look at that list every day and decide to do one thing that brings you joy. It doesn’t have to be epic. Step outside and take a breath of fresh air if ‘being in nature’ brings you joy and that is what you can handle that day…small steps, even micro steps…and that’s ok.

If you are supporting someone through grief/loss, it’s ok to say, “I really don’t know what to say right now…” or to even say, “man…this is shitty…” say anything, something…don’t stay silent.

Please don’t invalidate someone’s feelings by telling them ‘it will get better’ or ‘there’s more fish in the sea’ or that their person ‘is in a better place’. While there are good intentions behind those words, it doesn’t acknowledge what someone is going through and it certainly doesn’t make anyone feel better.

Checking in, sitting in the pain with someone, whether through tears or silence, can be difficult because you can’t take the pain away but it is so very helpful in acknowledging someone’s difficulty. Ask them, ‘Do you mind if I stop by/call/text a couple of times a week to check in on you? I don’t want to overwhelm you, but would like to offer my support…’

Offering to do specific tasks is very helpful (I’m going to take your dog for a walk, I’ll pick up your kids from school, I will do your laundry for you…) as opposed to saying, ‘call me if you need anything’. Quite often a grieving person can’t decide if they need to get up off the couch to get a glass of water or to go to the bathroom, let alone anything else. Decisions are hard.

If you are going through grief or loss or trying to support someone through grief or loss and need help, please reach out. You are not alone.

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