Coping with grief and loss during and after holidays

Coping with grief and loss during and after holidays

When you have lost someone is not only the person whom you have lost, but also the possibility of future quality time spent together, future laughs, fun and activities together. Holiday time becomes especially hard for those who have lost someone dear to them. This is a time when families come together and spend quality time, playing and having fun. It is a time to reconnect, re-evaluate, remember and look ahead to the future. When you have lost a significant other the holiday season can begin to feel like a massive reminder of that loss. Everywhere you look you see partners smiling and looking happy, children playing, grandparents enjoying time with their little grandchildren, and families going about doing what families do when it is holiday time. Other people’s happiness can feel like salt to a raw wound for those who are grieving. This is especially true if you had a particular ‘holiday ritual’ that you and your loved one used to enjoy together – be it putting up a Christmas tree, cooking a particular dish, going to a particular holiday spot or simply enjoying a specific activity together. Suddenly entering into a holiday where this ritual is no longer done may seem empty and feel like yet another reminder of that which is no more.

Just how does one cope throughout this season? Many people choose to hide away, withdraw, sleep and keep to themselves – thereby avoiding any reminders and steering clear from any painful memories. Still others will throw themselves into the festivities, put on a brave face and pretend for everyone else’s sake that everything is fine and they are happy. Neither option seems like a healthy or sustainable coping mechanism. But perhaps finding a middle ground here is a more adaptive choice. Recognise and accept that the holidays will be difficult. It doesn’t mean you need to shy away from it, but it does mean that you need to give yourself a break, take care of yourself and recognise that some parts of this time are not going to be easy. Allow other people into your space and let them help in areas where things feel a little rough. If you and your partner always cooked Christmas lunch together, then allow someone else to do it for you this time. Share your loss with them and move forward by allowing yourself a new experience – taking in the positive joy and love you have around you. If you need time out, take it, but don’t withdraw yourself completely. There is fun to be had and love to be shared and you need to remind yourself from time to time that you are still alive! Choose which traditions you want to continue and which ones you are willing to change and then use the traditions you keep as an opportunity to remember and honour your lost loved one. Again, move forward from this by enjoying the moment with those around you and trying to be present in the now. If you find yourself struggling through this time, consider speaking with a counsellor, a local psychologist or find a support group for those who are struggling with grief as well.