Holidays are often referred to as the season of giving. It is a time to show love and appreciation to those around you and that is usually done through gift giving. While gift giving is always a kind gesture, in this season we also want to encourage the gift of offering grace to oneself and offering support to others.
For many, this will be the first holiday season spent without a loved one. This can cause what once would have been a festive time to turn into one of sadness.
Here are 5 ways to cope and support yourself if you are the person experiencing loss and 5 ways to support someone you know experiencing loss this season.
Give Yourself Time to Grieve
Grief can build up during the holidays as you remember how the season was previously spent with a loved one. The idea of having to be all joy and smiles might feel stressful or wrong and naturally this might cause you to be in even less of a festive spirit.
Don’t beat yourself up about it at all. It is OK to allow yourself to feel all the emotions that come along with loosing someone. Remind yourself that feelings of sadness, anger and confusion are normal. Acknowledge and accept them.
Ask for Help
If there is anything you need don’t hesitate to ask. Reach out to a friend or loved one and ask them to spend time with you, to be a shoulder to cry on, to cook a meal or to clean the house. Anything that will help make your life just a little bit easier is worth making the phone call or sending the text message.
If you need to you can also ask for assistance from resources such as counseling or support groups to help you cope with loss and keep your mental health in check.
Honor Traditions or Create New Ones
Think about something you and your loved one always did for the holidays and do it this year. While it may remind you of their absence it can also be a way to keep their memory alive and know that they will always be a part of you. This can include making their favorite holiday dish or playing their favorite holiday song.
You can also create a new tradition to honor them if the old tradition causes too much pain. This new tradition can include lighting a candle in their memory, creating remembrance ornaments or stuffing stockings with notes of kindness and encouragement.
Do Something Charitable
Giving back to others doesn’t just help them but it helps you as well. If you aren’t in a mood to celebrate, you can focus on making someone else’s holiday a little brighter. This can include donating to a cause your loved one really cared about or volunteering in their memory.
Make Some Time for Yourself
The holiday season can become quite busy as you plan trips, shop for gifts, prepare holiday meals or take care of kids. This can cause you to feel overwhelmed as you struggle to find a chance to really take care of your own needs. When you start to feel this way, make it a priority to have some alone time.
This might even mean saying say no to holiday festivities altogether if you know it can potentially cause you more stress or sadness. Take the time to unapologetically engage in self-care activities instead.
Understand the grieving process
Making a conscious effort to understand the 5 stages of grief can help you assess where someone may be in their journey to processing what they are feeling. Knowing this can give you a better perspective on the dos and don’ts of helping them cope with loss at any given time.
Instead of telling them how they should grieve, think of ways to you can support and encourage them during those different stages.
Offer practical help
Sometimes we want to support those coping with loss but don’t necessarily know how so we might simply say “let me know if you need anything”. Instead of waiting on them to let you know, which may never happen, take a more proactive approach.
Offer to help with tasks such as grocery shopping, cooking dinner or babysitting. These are things they may not even realize they need help with but that end up taking a huge weight off their shoulders.
This starts with speaking less and encouraging your friend or loved one to share more. Show them that with you they have a safe space to express all their thoughts and emotions as it relates to the loss of their loved one.
In listening make sure you are making eye contact and watching your body language. You want them to know that you are actively engaged in the conversation.
Try to be there physically for the person whenever possible. This can mean simply sitting with them at their home or offering to take them out during the holiday seasons, so they know they truly have someone to lean on.
Even once the holiday season passes, remember that there will be plenty of other days when they will be overtaken by grief. Be sure to reach out during birthdays, anniversaries, and other important dates of the lost one. This is a way to let them know that you are always thinking of them.