The holidays can be challenging enough with all of the busyness of the season, but if you’ve experienced a major loss such as the death of a loved one, this time of year can be extremely difficult. Family gatherings where your loved one is not present can leave a huge void. Past memories of times spent together can stir up sadness. You may even experience anxiety, depression and trouble sleeping. Further, you may feel the pressure to get into the spirit of the season even though your heart is not into it.

During this time, it is quite normal for unresolved grief to surface. Therefore, it is important to have coping strategies to help you deal with it. The following are pointers to assist you:

  1. Create new traditions and experiences. Recognize that the holidays won’t be the same if you try to keep everything as it was. For example, you might want to take a vacation somewhere new instead of following your normal holiday routine.
  2. Engage in a holiday ritual. For example, set a place for your loved one at the dinner table during a holiday meal and take turns sharing about fond memories you have of that person.
  3. Simplify your gift giving. Give from a place of positive abundant energy instead of a place of depletion. Talk to your family and friends about drawing names to simplify the giving process. In our family, we draw one name and become that person’s Secret Santa.
  4. Participate in activities that bring you comfort. You don’t have to say “Yes” to every invitation. Listen to your internal barometer. If you are feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to say “No” and take care of your self.
  5. Take care of yourself first. Be prepared that the holidays may be difficult so engage in extra self care i.e. schedule a massage, take baths and naps, watch funny movies, set aside time to be still and meditate.
  6. Construct a list of all activities that relax and revive you. Choose items from this list to help manage your stress.
  7. Volunteer your time at a local charity. Placing your focus on giving to others less fortunate will help you to put your situation into perspective and will make you feel good about yourself.
  8. Keep a daily gratitude journal. Write down all of the things you feel grateful for such as the love of family and friends, your pets, home, work, health, etc.
  9. Talk about your feelings. Reach out and let close family and friends know how you are doing. Be careful not to isolate yourself.
  10. Get outside support. Drop into a grief support group facilitated by your local hospice or engage with a psychotherapist or counselor specializing in grief and loss like myself.

By making room for grief to surface and be expressed this time of year, you are giving yourself the gift of deeper healing and transformation. You are also giving your family and friends the gift of your full Presence….There is no better gift that you can give!