Grief and the holidays: Tips for managing conflicting emotions

Holidays are filled with traditions, but when someone you used to share those moments with has died, managing grief during the holiday season can be particularly challenging. While family members, particularly children, may want things to be as they’ve always been, the reality is things have changed. It can also be a time to create new traditions and memories that honor your absent loved one.

Consider this advice from the National Funeral Directors Association to help navigate grief this holiday season.

  1. Get plenty of rest. The holiday season pulls people in many directions, and that can mean getting less sleep than you need. However, being tired not only has a physical impact on how you feel, it can affect your ability to process emotions.
  2. Give yourself permission to take a break. No two people process grief and loss the same way; only you know your limits. Even in a season filled with obligations and commitments, it’s okay to set boundaries and remove yourself from holiday reminders and triggers. That may mean flipping the channel on the TV or bypassing the holiday display at the store. Taking care of yourself when you’re grieving isn’t just about comfort, it’s also about avoiding discomfort.
  3. Be realistic with your commitments. You may be the one who hosts your family’s holiday celebration every year, but if others offer, let them. Allow loved ones to help, and if they don’t volunteer, don’t be afraid to ask.
  4. Look for tangible ways to express feelings. So much of grief is internal, but physical expressions of your memories and feelings can help process it all.
  5. Verbalize how you’re feeling. Manage expectations by telling family and friends how you’re feeling about the holiday and what they can expect from you. Also let them know what you need from them. If talking about your loved one brings comfort, let those around you know you appreciate the stories and reminiscing. If it hurts, ask that they refrain.
  6. Honor your feelings and needs. Grief comes in waves. The only way to process it is to ride one wave to the next. That may mean putting off your holiday shopping for a day when you’re feeling less emotional, or bowing out of an event you planned to attend.
  7. Include your late loved one in the holidays. It may mean serving his or her favorite dish, placing a photo on the mantel, or simply slipping a memento in your pocket so you can touch it when you’re feeling overwhelmed.

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Source: Family Features