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Grief and the Holidays

Updated: Dec 1, 2019

The Holiday season can be difficult when you are grieving. Here are some "Crucial Self-Care Tips" that may be helpful.

Traditional celebrations may feel overwhelming, and sometimes even the thought of making it through the "cheerful" holiday season can seem impossible. You aren't alone! These self-care tips can be incredibly helpful and affirming when grieving during the holidays.


1. Be Aware of Your Feelings.

Grief comes in a variety of emotions, all of which can be particularly sensitive during holidays. Self-awareness can help with navigating the present moment. Name what you are feeling, and honor that feeling. It’s okay to feel sad, it’s okay to feel mad, and it is okay to feel happy. Even in the moments we feel isolated and alone, “Grief is our companion.” Grief will always remember. Allow emotions to ebb and flow.


2. It is Okay to Say “No”.

Be cautious not to overwhelm yourself with social or familial obligations, it can be easy to do during this time of year. If you’re not feeling up for going to that holiday party/get together/event/tradition, give yourself permission to say no and stay home if you need to. In doing so, you are taking care of yourself.


3. Be Gentle With Yourself

You don’t have to love this holiday season. The holidays throw us off our routines, and grief can be compounded. Try to find grace with yourself. Try to maintain basic personal needs such as eating, drinking enough water, and sleeping. Meet yourself where you are at. “Sometimes it’s OK if the only thing you did today was breathe” (Yumi Sakugawa).


4. Ask for Support

If you’re struggling, don’t be afraid to reach out to family and friends for support. It can be helpful to think ahead about who your support people are so that you can have them on “speed-dial” if needed.


5. Plan an Exit Strategy

Sometimes our tolerance is lower when we’re grieving during this time of year, and it can be helpful to have some autonomy when you feel obligated to go to an event that you may not have the energy to be present for. It’s okay to give yourself permission not to host an event (even if you’ve “always done it before”), to drive yourself so you can leave when you need to, and even if you can only manage to stay for fifteen minutes, that’s deserving of applause. Give yourself credit for the accomplishment of going, as well as for listening to yourself and taking care of your needs.


6. Permission to Change a Tradition

Normal has been turned upside-down. It would make sense then that holiday traditions also are “upside-down”. Sometimes how we have done things in the past, just aren’t right anymore. Because everything has changed. It may be that an old tradition is too hard to do now, and maybe a new tradition can begin. Give yourself permission to roll with such changes, and to be intentional about what changes you implement.


7. Honor Your Loved One

It is important to allow yourself time and space to remember your loved one. What is something you can add to your holiday traditions that honors them, your connection with them, and their continued impact in your life and in the world?


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