Coping with Grief During the Holiday Season

Coping During the Holidays

Contributed by Wendy Vargo, Big Bend Hospice Grief Support Counselor

Missing someone you love is never easy and during special times, such as holidays, it can be particularly difficult. Throughout the year, there are bound to be many personal reminders of our losses. These reminders can elicit a memory and can bring intense feelings.

For many grievers, the holiday season can be particularly challenging. What you are hoping will be a quick trip to the grocery store can turn into a barrage of grief triggers. There are decorations and music playing; there are seasonal foods and treats, not to mention the smells and seeing families enjoying their time together. It can feel overwhelming and create a feeling that the world is moving on without you.

Everyone wants you to be happy, to be ok, to feel better, to focus on the positive, but sometimes you cannot or, if you are honest, do not want to. Allowing yourself to feel your sadness, experience anger, frustration, or any of your feelings of grief does not make you Scrooge. It only makes you human.

Fred Rogers said “Anything that’s human is mentionable and anything that is mentionable can be more manageable,” and grief is one of the most human things there is. Give yourself permission this holiday season to talk about your grief. Give it words, colors, sounds or even silence. Be honest with yourself and others. Grief counselor and educator Kenneth Doka speaks to this in his 3 C’s, choose, compromise, and communicate.

First, choose: you do have options. You may choose to do everything the way you always have, you may opt for skipping the holidays altogether, or you may want to do something different.

Keep in mind, however, the second and third C’s are compromise and communication. It is fine if some people in the family want to decorate and make cookies while others choose to sit out activities and events. Talk to the people who are in your life who love you about how you are feeling and what you need. Listen to others in your family about what they need. Well-intentioned friends and family may strongly encourage you to get out or to accept invitations for gatherings or other festivities. You may choose some things and not others, or you may simply say that you will not be able to take part this year. If you decide to attend, remember to have a plan for what to do if you feel overwhelmed.

Most importantly, be compassionate with yourself and those around you. If you are in the holiday spirit, express that in a way that is meaningful to you. There is no need to feel guilty if everyone is not on the same page; however, remember to respect the choices of others in your family or group of friends. Rely on your support system and choose to be where you feel like you can be heard and loved no matter what mood you are in. Allow your heart to honor the hurt and to feel the love, the memories, and connections with your loved one. Death may end a life, but not a relationship.

Big Bend Hospice has been serving this community since 1983 with compassionate end-of-life care along with grief and loss counselors available to provide information and support to anyone in Leon, Jefferson, Taylor, Madison, Gadsden, Liberty, Franklin or Wakulla County. If you would like additional information about services, please call 850-878-5310 or visit www.bigbendhospice.org

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