Surviving grief during holidays
The holiday season can be a difficult time for those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, for those who suffer from depression and similar disorders or general feelings of loneliness.
Memories of the death of a loved one often return to the surface during the holiday season and the absence of comfort and sense of togetherness that was shared with the loved one can cause survivors to isolate themselves. They fear that others will not understand their grief, especially if the loss was suffered long ago.
Feelings of fear, sadness and apprehension usually begin a few weeks before the holidays and there are a few things that those experiencing difficulty can do:
- Keep a regular routine. Get plenty of sleep and have regular meals.
- Make some plans in advance.
- Prepare a list in advance of things that might help if/when feelings of sadness come. Call a friend, see a funny movie, attend a grief support meeting, go to church, pray, meditate or take a walk.
- Notify friends in advance that their support might be needed.
- Do not deny the grief, but take care not to let it become all-consuming.
There are also things that friends and family can do for the grieving person:
- Let them know they are not alone – be there for them.
- Understand that grief cannot be “fixed.”
- Drop in for visits and/or call them regularly.
- Take them out to lunch/dinner, shopping or to a movie.
- If the loss has left them alone in their home, invite them to yours. Stress that they are welcome and that they would not be intruding, but understand if they decline.
- Become educated on the subject of grief and loss so that you can help.
There are signs when a typical amount of grief has escalated to a level that requires attention. If these symptoms occur, help the person by taking them to their doctor, counselor or grief support meeting:
- The grief has become all-consuming.
- Daily needs such as sleep, meals and showers are not being met.
- They are unable to accomplish simple tasks.
In addition to the rest of the difficulties, guilt is often a factor. People think that it isn’t right to have fun when the loved one is not here with them. This reaction is typical but friends and family should encourage them to understand that accepting that the loved one is no longer here and that going on with life is not wrong. It means that they have reached a point of acceptance, which is a good thing.