Can you believe it? It’s the holiday season again. Is time flying by or is it just me?! It is at this time that we expect to feel happiness and joy, but what are some other things that often happen? We can feel stress, anxiety, depression, and more…. It is for many who have suffered serious losses a time of grieving.
What does the word grieving conjure up for you? For sure it means heart-felt pain and suffering from some sort of loss. Sometimes it’s the loss of a parent or other close family member through separation (think divorce or someone moving away). Probably more often it is a word we use to describe loss through death. We may show our grief outwardly (we go into mourning) and we often wear black clothing to punctuate that. Or we may be inclined to celebrate someone’s life by wearing brightly colored, happy clothes, singing, dancing, playing upbeat music, etc. to focus on more positive aspects of a person’s existence. How we feel and express our grief is probably as individual as each human being is. And that’s just fine.
There are some patterns of grieving that have been observed by professionals. First of all, though, grieving is a universal phenomenon, across the globe. At some point in time, we will all experience a type of grieving. As stated above, it can be a death, a separation of someone meaningful in our lives, the loss of a job, a relationship ending, etc. The list can be endless. Also as stated above, grieving is a very personal thing. People grieve for different periods of time, and you may experience anger, sadness, guilt, you may withdraw and feel empty.
As first defined by Elizabeth Kuebler Ross, there are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. People cycle through these stages in different ways. They are not always experienced linearly. Not everyone goes through all these stages so just consider this a guideline of what may happen.
In any case, there is much one can do to navigate through grieving, especially during the holidays. Experiencing your feelings is important but getting depressed and not functioning is not a good thing. You can do this by allowing yourself some feeling time – alone or with another loved one or within a therapeutic setting – but it is often a good idea to keep yourself occupied part of the time. Understand that the holidays may be tough, and perhaps different from ever before, but your life goes on. Embrace yourself that way. Be positive: believe you can and will adapt. If you are having trouble, you can reach out to a competent healthcare practitioner for extra assistance…no shame…no blame.
You can decide which holiday traditions you want to keep, and which ones you’d like to change. You can create new traditions going forward, and you can even create something in memory of your lost loved one (or situation). If you are part of a group (a family or other group also experiencing this loss), reach out to communicate with them about celebrating the holidays. Be totally honest in these communications. Also remember that everyone feels loss a little differently, so if someone is not showing their grief outwardly or acting as if nothing happened, this person is still dealing with the situation somehow. You might consider writing a letter to your departed loved one expressing your feelings. You can sing, dance, and do art. Anything that feels good to you, as part of a healthy grieving expression, as long as it’s positive, will add some light into an otherwise dark situation.
Be careful during celebrations not to overindulge with food (especially junk food) and alcoholic beverages. While this may numb you out of your grieving momentarily, it will return, and you will likely not feel particularly good physiologically on top of that.
Many people find solace in expressing what they are grateful for, and some people donate holiday meals to a family in need. Be sure that you don’t over-extend yourself with holiday activities; instead, leave some quiet “me” time. In other words, please practice self-care that helps you feel better. And also remember that you will not magically lift up out of depression even though you’re following good advice; grieving takes time. Look instead back a little and notice the smaller improvements before passing judgment and thinking “I’ll never feel better.” Hindsight is better than foresight in this case!
We at Health and Wellness Online would like to wish all of you a very happy holiday season.
And as always, please have a holistically healthy day!
Dr. Donna Poppendieck (Dr. P) has over 30 years of experience in the mental health care field. She is a seasoned college professor and instructor for providers. She uses credible, proven holistic health strategies in instruction for parents of children with mental health challenges looking for another approach as well as healthcare providers seeking to implement or understand holistic strategies.