For those dealing with sickness, grief or the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be an especially sensitive time. Maybe the season brings up feelings of anger, confusion and shame.
Perhaps you’re experiencing loneliness and regret. How are you supposed to feel even a glimmer of joy when things are so grim?
Well, there are a few ways to cope with your emotions and simply get through this time. Here are a few ideas that might help.
Let Yourself Be Sad
Society often tells us to avoid negative emotions like sadness, anger and grief. Choke them down, cover them up, and, for goodness sake, don’t let the pain show, right?
Yet, the only way to truly heal and move past the heartbreak is to sit with your feelings and really feel them.
Let the tears come, allow yourself to cry and scream and wail. Release those negative emotions and be sad. Only then you can pick yourself up and move on.
Honor Traditions and Memories
Your loved one may be gone, but the memories you shared together will last forever. Honor them and celebrate their life by keeping traditions you had when they were still alive.
Whether it was hanging a pickle on the Christmas tree or going caroling, carrying on as you would any other year will remind you of all the good times you had together. This way you focus on the positives, even if they are bittersweet.
Prioritize Your Health
When you’re grieving, it’s easy to neglect your physical needs because you’re dealing with so much mentally. However, it’s especially important that you take care of yourself right now.
Otherwise, poor nutrition, an inconsistent sleep schedule and a lack of physical activity can easily become your new normal.
Eventually, these bad habits can become unhealthy coping mechanisms and prevent you from healing. Therefore, you must prioritize food, water, sleep and movement.
Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, especially while you’re coping with loss. That means if you need to be alone, set boundaries with your friends and family and spend some time with yourself.
This is the perfect time to explore your feelings and practice self-care.
Of course, you shouldn’t completely isolate yourself, especially during the holidays. Go to family gatherings and annual celebrations and spend time with those who love you.
Ask For and Accept Help
Grief can take a toll on your energy levels and make it practically impossible to take care of yourself — not to mention your family. That’s why it’s crucial that you ask for and accept help during this difficult time.
You might feel like a burden, but your loved ones are likely already looking for ways to help. Odds are they’ll jump at the chance to lend a hand, so let down your guard and lay down your pride.
Bring Joy to Others
History’s greatest thinkers have long suggested the same thing: helping others makes you happy. Whether you’re dealing with divorce or the death of a loved one, dedicating time to serving others is sure to spark some joy in your heart.
At the very least, it will help take your mind off things, even if only for a little while.
Pay particular attention to others’ smiles and how it feels to make a positive impact. Lean into those feelings and you’re well on your way to busting a smile, too.
Revisit Old Hobbies
The holiday season is undeniably busy. However, losing yourself in the act of making cookies, knitting and decorating might actually help you better cope with loss this holiday season.
If you don’t celebrate Christmas, revisit an old hobby, something that helps you get into a flow state. Yoga, meditation and other mind-body exercises may prove particularly useful as coping mechanisms.
Turn to these and other similar activities to regulate your emotions whenever grief hits you unexpectedly.
Sometimes, you can’t handle the grief on your own — nor should you have to. It’s important to reach out for support during this time.
Talk to a trusted friend or family member who can empathize without offering unwanted advice. Often, simply talking through your emotions can relieve some of the heartache and make the pain a bit more bearable.
If you don’t have someone you can trust, turn to a counselor, community support group, or therapist such as Psych Company for people going through the five stages of grief. They’ll offer a listening ear and even provide additional coping mechanisms so you can learn to support yourself when others aren’t around.
When the Only Way Out is Through
Many people try to avoid, numb out and cover up the pain that comes with losing a loved one. They turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms in an attempt to escape the heartache.
Yet, in this case, the only way out is through, so embrace the grief this holiday season, even if it puts a damper on things.
You have every right to feel the way you feel, and healing takes time. As long as you give yourself grace and lean on those around you, you’ll make it through, so take your time.