Creative Arts Therapy Source | New York and New Jersey_Creative Arts Therapy Source | New York and New Jersey

From Halloween to New Year’s Day, we’re expected to be in celebration mode. But the shopping, parties, social plans, and gifts may feel impossible when you are processing grief. You may have lost a loved one since the previous holiday season. Just as likely, this time of year causes older grief to resurface. Either way, the loss feels magnified.

The events designed to foster togetherness can instead make you feel even more alone. Watching others feeling joyous can even provoke feelings of anger and resentment. How can they be so happy when you feel so sad? As much as we’d like to deny it, the holiday-grief connection is real and it is challenging. 

Grief Often Feels Worse During the Holiday Season

At a time when you feel practically obligated to be with lots of people and catch up with old connections, you feel lonely. Someone is missing and your world feels empty. During such a festive time, it is tempting to pretend. You don’t want to be the party pooper. This only ends up worsening the symptoms of mourning when you eventually let them out.

Rather, you can choose to feel what you need to feel. Do things your way and allow yourself to honor your grief. Remember, it represents more than pain and sorrow. Grief is also a profound expression of love. 

Coping with Grief During the Holidays

Remember, You Can Feel Lots of Feelings

We human beings are fortunate that we can carry with us so many emotions. Therefore, you don’t have to shut down your bereavement just because it’s a holiday. Conversely, you can still enjoy the season despite the grief. It is possible and it is not disrespectful to the person who died.  

Set Boundaries

This tip should be standard for the holiday season — wither without grief. Pick and choose which events you opt to participate in. Sure, you will feel pressure but hey… that’s what boundaries are for!

Be Open-Minded About Traditions 

For example:

  • Keeping some old traditions can be very helpful. They keep memories alive.
  • Exploring new traditions is a powerful way to move forward. New rituals don’t negate the old ones. You can carry them all in your heart.
  • Plan ahead. Surely, there are parts of every holiday where the deceased will be particularly missed. Maybe Mom always made the gravy. Plan in advance for these roles to be filled by new people in new ways. 

Help Others

There is perhaps no greater way to lighten your emotional burden than to bring happiness to someone else. Opportunities abound during the holiday season to volunteer and engage in random acts of kindness. You just may find that this is something you want to do all year round.

Practice Self-Care

Build resilience by creating and sticking to a regimen. Regular sleep patterns, healthy eating choices, and daily physical activity are great ways to start. Also, cultivate some coping mechanisms for those inevitable moments when it all feels too overwhelming. Stress management and relaxation techniques can be your holiday gifts yourself as you navigate this uncharted territory. 

You Do Not Have to Go It Alone

It may seem logical and wise to withdraw. No one understands and you feel like a burden. In reality, you can gain so much by leaning on a support system. Whoever it is — friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, etc. — let them know you need help. If you don’t feel comfortable doing so, another option is to speak with a professional. 

Creative Arts Therapy Source offers in-person therapy on Long Island. Online therapy is available across New York & New Jersey.