Transitions are tough under any circumstances. Whether it’s a divorce or the death of a spouse, child or parent, it’s normal to feel unmoored and unhappy for a while as you grieve your old life and adjust to your new reality. This is extra challenging around the holidays.
There is an incredible cultural pressure to be happy around the holidays. Media messages, store windows, and holiday music keep chanting a refrain of joy, joy, joy. Most of us have a family history that echoes those same pressures of holiday bliss. So how can a person who is grieving endure the holidays?
Tip #1 - You Do You
There is no right or wrong way to do grief or to do holidays. You get to choose what you want to do. Spend some time with yourself, reflecting on your own needs. While you may have some legitimate obligations to your kids or other family members, it’s not your job to fake it or to sacrifice your own mental health to comply with someone else’s idea of a good holiday.
Allow yourself the time and space you need to process your emotions. It’s OK to grieve, to feel lonely, to miss someone, to feel hurt.
Tip #2 - Seek Help
Let your close friends know that you are feeling fragile. Ask for support and company when you need it. Grief counselors and therapists can help you sort out your feelings and turn this troubling time into a growth experience. Support groups can provide a safe space to feel your feelings.
Tip #3 - What Fulfills You? Do That!
Give yourself the gift of doing what you love. Volunteering, hiking, skiing, working out, double features, crafts, baking, fostering litters of kittens – if it warms your heart, make time and space for it now.
Tip #4 - Take Some Me Time
The holidays can be overwhelmingly social. Feel free to step off the carrousel and take care of yourself with a book by the fire, a walk in the snow, or other self care. Book yourself a spa visit, a massage or a haircut. Shut off your phone and radio and just be with yourself. Journal. Take naps.
Tip #5 - Eat well and Exercise to Relieve Stress
Self care is so beneficial during stressful times. If you know you feel better when you eat well, try to maintain a diet that feels good. Use exercise to connect with yourself and burn through stress.
Tip #6 - Attend Events Judiciously
Going to an event that may be a trigger? Have an escape plan. You are entitled to slip away if you are overwhelmed. Engage a supportive friend as a wing-person, someone you can pull aside and connect with if you are struggling. You are also entitled to say no to party invitations.
Tip #7 - Leave Town
Some people like to book a trip away from their old routines. If you are energized by travel and exploring new places, consider trying something new, alone or with friends.
Tip #8 - Change your Expectations
Allow yourself to enjoy this holiday any way that you choose. Don’t judge yourself for feeling unhappy or lonely. Remember that grief has its season in every life. You may be in the doldrums now, but whatever transition you are experiencing will play itself out. Change is part of life, and humans are resilient creatures.
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