Smells of nutmeg and cinnamon in the air
Bright Christmas lights that make everything lighter
Sounds of Christmas carols as they float through the air
Smiles on faces as they enjoy the merriment
This is what many of us think of when we think of the sights and sounds of Christmas. They evoke a warmth in us that carry us through and just add to the wonder of the reason for Christmas, the birth of Jesus. However, for many of us the thought of Christmas and even these sites and sounds come with such a mixture of negative and positive emotion, maybe even dread.
There was a time when Christmas meant the light hearted fun and warmth that I am describing, but now these signs of Christmas bring sadness, loneliness, and a sense of loss. I don’t know what the cause of this is for you. Maybe you have gone through a recent loss of a loved one or a loss long ago that still feels so fresh. Or it could be the sadness and grief that comes from caring for someone who is sick, divorce, or broken relationships. This post will focus on the coping with loss during the holidays. Nothing brings up pain quite like this time of year.
Dread at seeing all of the happy families
Loneliness of not having that loved one with you
Desire to just skip it all together
Feelings of isolation, while you feel like the only one not happy
What are you supposed to do with all of this? How can you deal with this pain and still survive the holiday season?
7 Tips for Coping with Loss During the Holidays:
1)Plan for the Pain:
While, natural instinct is the put on the brakes and be dragged into this season kicking and screaming because it is oh so painful, plan ahead for this struggle. Take some quiet time for yourself now, weeks before Christmas, or even better, next year, start thinking about all of the holidays in early November. Write down the elements that are hard: feelings, specific situations, and other triggers. Now keep these in mind as we talk about dealing with them
2)Set up your Environment for Success:
One of the things, that makes this time of year hard, is that the weather of winter matches the darker emotions that you are feeling with this “winter” phase of life. (For more information, how times of loss can be fueled by and be like the seasons check out this article.)Even, in a warmer climate like, Arizona, there are more cloudy days, more rain, and cooler temperatures contributing to how you feel. Surround yourself with bright colors, cheerful music, keep the blinds/curtains open in your home during the day to bring the natural light in. This is a way of surrounding yourself with things that provide cheer to you. Then you can plan the time and place for feeling the sadness, loneliness, and other negative emotions, but you are not feeling them all the time. Studies have shown that both a lighter environment and cheerful music can deeply impact our emotions.
3)Provide specific times for you to feel the sadness and grief
Set up a comfortable place in your home that feels warm and safe. Have a warm cup of something. Plan a specific time for yourself there each day. Then sit, read the Bible or other inspirational book, pray, and/or journal. Pay your feelings the respect they deserve. You may also want to call and talk to a close friend or family member during this time.
4)Surround yourself with the best kind of social activities.
Plan out what get-togethers, parties, and outings you will do this season, ahead of time. Then you are prepared with an answer when someone asks. It’s ok to say “no.” You kind of know in your gut which outings are going to be the best for you during this time. Capitalize on the ones with close friends that bring you encouragement and support and stay away from the ones that seem hard and lack meaning for you. Then if you don’t have a significant other to go with you, find a friend to go with you, so you don’t have to attend them alone.
5)Have regular talks with your “go to” friends and family
Let those close people in your life know what you are going through. Talk to them regularly. Let them know what they can do to support and help you through this. People want to help. Often, though, they don’t know what to do. Make sure you have those people in your life that you don’t have to pretend with, but can genuinely talk to.
6)Find a way to do something special during the holidays to remember the person and what they enjoyed
You can start something new or continue something you’ve always done in honor of the person you lost or have a special holiday item to bring back memories for you. You may also wish to sit around with loved ones and remember past Christmas memories with the one you lost. You can also do small gestures to remember like making a special baked good that they liked, buy a special ornament, or put pictures out of past Christmas. For more, tips for coping with grief, check this article out from a website that shares more insights on grief.
7)Get support from a Life Coach or Therapist:
Let’s face it, this can be such a hard time. It is important to get the support you need to cope with all that you are going through. Coping with loss during the holidays is hard, and coaches and therapists are paid to provide you with tools to cope that you would not get to one your own. You want to be able to enjoy this time of year with friends and family, not just survive. I saw a woman the other day in line at Barnes and Noble. I saw in her hand a book about coping with grief. I just wanted grab her, give her a hug, hear her story, and tell her I could help. Reach out, coaching and counseling can make a big difference when you are coping with loss during the holidays.