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Tips for dealing with grief during the holidays

Posted at 9:00 AM, Dec 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-18 10:28:28-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — You don’t have to search far to feel the grip that Christmas and other holidays have on us, especially from a social aspect. We’re bombarded from multiple platforms with expectations to spend more, eat more and celebrate more.

While the hustle and bustle of the holiday season whirls around us, it’s no wonder some may want it all to either slow down or be over with already. Others may be feeling that way for an entirely different reason. For those coping with grief, the holidays may be a reminder of an empty seat at the dinner table.

“Even when you’re not grieving, this time of year can be stressful,” says Ashley Huisman, Grief Support Manager for Emmanuel Hospice. “It’s important to give yourself some grace and reflect on your needs.”

Ashley suggests a number of strategies to deal with the loss or coping with a loss. One of the keys to dealing with the grief, Huisman says, is giving yourself permission to change your routine – whatever it takes to create a healthy environment that honors where you are on the grief spectrum.

Some other recommendations may include:

  • Build on old traditions or start a new one: Light a candle. Say a prayer. Review a family photo album. Create an ornament to remember your loved one. Share stories that honor their memories.
  • Be prepared for a carol or an ornament to trigger a memory: Give yourself the OK to cry.
  • Take time to acknowledge your feelings: It’s perfectly alright to feel sad if you are grieving – even if it seems the rest of the world is celebrating.
  • Scale back and set boundaries: Grief can rob us of emotional and physical energy. If you know an event or party is not going to be enjoyable, or if a tradition feels like too much, it’s OK to skip it this year. It may also help to forgo sending cards, baking or decorating this year.
  • Manage expectations: Let your family and friends know this might be difficult time of year, and you might not be up for celebrating as much as you have in the past.
  • Ask for help: You don’t have to go into the holidays alone. Ask family and friends to help you, even if it’s just sitting with you so you have company. You can also seek out a counselor.