6 Tips to Help You Make it Through the Holidays When You’re Dealing with Loss

Tuesday, November 30, 2010 13:51
Posted in category Uncategorized

By Ellen Brown

If you’re grieving the death of a loved one or the loss of your job, the holidays may be anything but the hap, hap happiest time of the year. In fact, depending on your circumstances, the holidays may be the most dreaded time of the year.

You may even feel like there’s something wrong with you for not “being in the holiday spirit,” if you don’t feel like going to the company holiday party this year (if you have a job) or heading over to Aunt Irma’s for a big Christmas dinner. And that’s understandable since we certainly have some bizarre expectations in our culture about people being especially joyful during the holidays.

But the truth is there isn’t anything wrong with you for not being in the holiday spirit. You’re going through a tough time, and you can’t be expected to flip a switch and be happy on someone else’s timetable.

It’s natural to feel sad during the holidays if you’re dealing with any sort of loss, because the holidays bring up memories of how things used to be, whether you’re missing a loved one who recently died or longing for the way your life used to be before you were laid off from your job.

Instead of berating yourself for not feeling happy enough, consider cutting yourself some slack. If you’re not sure how to do that, here are six tips for navigating the holidays this year, during this difficult time in your life:

Embrace Your Feelings – Instead of staying insanely busy during the holidays to keep your feelings at arm’s length, give yourself the time and space to experience and release your feelings. Though our culture leads us to believe that there are “good feelings” –such as joy that should be seen and heard — and “bad feelings” — such as sadness and anger — that are better pushed aside, when we stuff our feelings they often come seeping out in inappropriate ways. But when we lean into our feelings, they move through us like a river, cleansing and healing us. So if you’re feeling sad, go ahead, and have a good cry. And if you’re like some of the clients I’ve coached who are worried that if they open up the proverbial floodgates they’ll never stop crying, not to worry. It’s not going to happen. I promise. Crying is healthy and healing, and I don’t know about you, but when I allow myself to have a good cry, I always feel better.

Reach Out – If you know the holidays are going to be painful this year, because you’re missing a loved one who’s died, create a list of friends and family members who you can reach out to when you’re feeling down. The key is to find loved ones who are supportive rather than directive. There are plenty of people you can turn to who will tell you that you should “be over” the death of your Dad or grateful that you lost your job because you hated it anyhow. But what you’re looking for is people who will let you express your feelings without judging you or dispensing advice. I truly believe that one of the greatest gifts we can give and receive, during the holiday season (and everyday of the year) is the gift of listening without judgment. It is priceless.

Treat Yourself Gently and Generously – Sometimes we can be so mean and stingy with ourselves. But now, more than ever, we need to treat ourselves with gentleness and generosity. So become aware of how you’re talking to yourself. Are you building yourself up or tearing yourself down with your self talk? Are telling yourself that you’re a “bad Mom” because you’re too emotionally drained to do everything you typically do for the holidays this year? Talk to yourself the way you’d talk to a close friend: with compassion and gentleness. And while you’re at it, why not do something nice for yourself this holiday season, whether that means getting a massage or taking yourself for a long walk in the woods or springing for a tasty dinner at a new restaurant that you’ve been meaning to try out? It doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming (though it could be). I often challenge clients to weave some fun into their lives everyday, and that’s especially the case during the holidays. So I encourage YOU to do the same.

Tickle Your Funny Bone – When we’re dealing with loss, life can seem so heavy, so adding a little levity can go a long way. And let’s face it: laughing just feels good. If you need more reasons to add laughter to your life, consider this: studies show that humor has some serious healing powers. It can reduce stress, boost our immune system, increase our threshold for pain, and shift our perspective in an instant. Since humor is a very personal thing, I wouldn’t presume to prescribe a generic list of yucks. But you might want to find some funny movies to watch, catch up on your favorite sitcoms, and look for the humor in everyday life. I’m told that You Tube has a whole genre of cat videos that will have you rolling on the floor.

Count Your Blessings – Though it may sound counter intuitive to look at what you’re thankful for, when you’re going through a tough time, it really does work. Keeping a gratitude journal or just writing down what you’re thankful for when you’re having a particularly difficult day, helps balance out the negatives with the positives. The trick is to tune into your feelings as you’re writing your list, so you can feel the shift that takes place. I’m always amazed at the lift I feel, when I take the time to acknowledge and express my gratitude.

Remember That You’re in Charge – If you’re like many people, you may feel as though you HAVE TO do everything you’ve always done during holidays, whether you’re grieving or not. So in your mind, there’s no question you have to send out holiday cards, bake the cookies, and host the big family dinner. But the choice is yours. You can change things up. Try out new traditions. Get other family members involved, instead of going it alone. And you can even cut yourself some slack and choose NOT to attend some holiday parties. If you’re the family perfectionist who’s always gunning for another gold star, maybe this is an opportunity to give someone else a chance to help out. Of course, can still choose to handle everything yourself, as always. But just know that the choice is yours.

If you’re dealing with loss this holiday season, what are YOU doing to make it easier on yourself?

I’d love to hear what you have to say about this post. Please leave a comment here on Stepping Stones.

Ellen Brown is a certified professional coach based in Cleveland, OH and a regular contributor to ShareWIK.com.

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3 Responses to “6 Tips to Help You Make it Through the Holidays When You’re Dealing with Loss”

  1. Laurie Wallin says:

    December 14th, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    Loved the encouragement to treat ourselves gently. When we’ve grieved during over more than one year, we can get so impatient with needing to process afresh each time. That happens with me and my special needs kids. It’s like I give myself permission only to grieve so much or so long or so often, then give myself heck for doing it over that limit. Lame! Definitely a good reminder in your post – thanks so much!

  2. Ellen Brown says:

    December 15th, 2010 at 7:54 am

    I so agree that we sometimes beat ourselves up over grieving too long or too much. Our culture doesn’t support grieving very much; there is a hurry up and “get over it” attitude. But taking the time we need is so important! Thanks for sharing your experience, Laurie.

  3. Bill Buick says:

    December 17th, 2010 at 6:47 am

    It has been such a difficult yr, ,y disability getting worse, loss of our last living relative loss of my wifes job and having to move. We have been overwhelmed and stressed. I have not seen my wife smile for so long. It is also worse as we have a son who is 26 and suffers from autism. We wanted Christmas for him mostly but we all know how nice it is to have something under the tree for everyone. Will not be the case this year and it is hurting ym wife so much. You can see the pain in her eyes and feel her heart breaking with no immediate family left to celebrate with.
    Thank you for your posts and for caring and sharing.
    have a Merry Christmas, be safe, stay well and God Bless.
    Bill

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