The holidays tend to be about family, friends and tradition… when you have recently lost a loved one or are newly separated/divorced from your partner, the holidays can be a very challenging time emotionally. There are many triggers to grief this time of year and this blog is aimed to help support you in finding ways to manage those feelings this holiday season.
1 - Do what Feels Right
Ultimately you are the only person who knows how you are feeling and how much you feel up to or not while you are processing difficult emotions. If you feel like you want to be around your loved ones and celebrate the holiday, do that. It is always good to surround yourself with the support and company of those you care for. It may also be good to allow some time for yourself, remembering and grieving, before you join in planned activities with others... this will give you a chance to process and acknowledge your feelings prior to engaging with others.
On the other hand, if you feel that it will be too much for you and you'd like to skip planned activities with others this year, that's ok too. It might be a good idea if you choose to stay back, to think about ways you can comfort yourself while you are alone. It may even be helpful to have a friend or family member check in on you if that feels right for you.
2 - Tend to your Feelings
Loss of a loved one brings up a lot of intense emotion and memories. It is important to try to let yourself feel those feelings when they come up. If you are with family and friends and you feel a wave of grief coming on, its ok to excuse yourself to the bathroom or take a quick walk outside. If you feel comfortable sharing your feelings and thoughts with someone that is present, you could do that. Allowing people to comfort you can be very healing and it may actually help the person who you allow to comfort you. And if you find yourself laughing and having a good time... please remember that experiencing joy and laughter does not mean you have forgotten your loved one. It’s more than ok to have a positive feelings during this time.
If you are navigating the newness of a holiday after divorce or separation, you may be experiencing a plethora of emotions. Give yourself the space to allow each one in. Whether its anger, sadness, shock or regret, taking some time to journal around what you are feeling may help you to process the emotions and ultimately let them pass for now. If it helps you to talk out loud, call a friend you trust so you can tend to the emotions showing up for you.
3 - Create a new Tradition — or Don’t.
Each and every person has their own very unique grieving process, so only you can determine what is best for you and your family and friends. For some, creating a new tradition that incorporates the person you lost can be an important experience... for instance lighting a candle in honor of your loved one or visiting the cemetery together with flowers with your family or group of friends can be a way of remembering and honoring your loved one.
If you are experiencing change this year due to divorce or separation, a new tradition might a little different… maybe you attend a play with your friends or family this year or decide to delegate cooking duties to the entire family/friend group.
With all that said, if you want to keep your traditions as they are, that is entirely up to you. This year what is most important is that you do what feels best for you and your family.
There is no right or wrong way to celebrate the holiday season when you are experiencing difficult emotions of loss or change. Pay attention to how you are feeling and use your intuition to guide you. If you need a little extra support this holiday season, do not be afraid to reach out to a good friend or Psychotherapist in your area.
Wishing you a warm and peaceful holiday season.
Melissa Grohs, MA, LPCC
Counseling & Psychotherapy Services