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Let's Talk: Grief and Loss During the Holidays

It can be difficult to deal with feelings of sadness when others around you are full of holiday cheer.

When talking about grief and loss during the holiday season you might be dealing with the “big G” grief such as the loss of a loved one to you the “small g” grief such as the loss of being able to have dinner with friends to celebrate the season. It is important to acknowledge that the holidays may look different and that all your feelings around your loss are valid.

A few strategies to manage your grief and get through the holiday season

No Comparisons

Don’t compare your grief and loss to anyone else’s. Remember your feelings are valid. Every person handles loss in a different way and has different needs. There is no right or wrong way to deal with grief and loss. You might have a lot on your plate and sometimes small things can be more than you are able to manage at that time.

Feel All the Feelings

Allow yourself to have all of your feelings. You may feel happy and then quickly switch to guilt or sadness and that is okay. It is okay and even healthy to cry. Expect to feel mood swings and to have changing needs.

Set New Traditions

This year has been full of changes and the idea of more changes can be overwhelming. Nevertheless, it can be helpful to start a new tradition to honor the loss of a loved one or in place of something you are missing. Make a plan for what events or traditions you are able to manage; don’t feel guilty for skipping holiday traditions that feel overwhelming. Likewise, try not to cancel or skip plans that you set; you don’t want to isolate yourself. It might be tempting to skip that video chat, but try to get on for at least a little while.

Identify Coping Skills

Make a list of your coping skills that will help when you feel overwhelmed. Some coping skills are to take a deep breath, go for a walk, journal, use affirmations, and yoga.

You might want to try a more neutral affirmation if a positive one does not feel realistic:

This feeling is valid.

I have the strength to manage my sadness.

My grief mattes.

Different types of coping skills:

Get Grounded

Get Creative

Get Active

Get Connected

Get Distracted

Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for help. If you need someone to talk to or need support getting things done; reach out to your support system or a support group for help. Others may try to cheer you up and if this is not what you want at the moment make sure to communicate your needs and set boundaries. Attending a grief group can be helpful to have someone to talk with who understands what you are going through.

Monica McNeeley is a licensed therapist, LCSW, provides online therapy in the state of California. She has been providing therapy services since 2011.

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