For many people the holidays are filled with happiness and family gatherings. For some people the holidays may be filled with grief and loss. If you have lost a partner, family member, friend or a family pet, below are some ways for you to do some self-care during this time of year.

  1. Talk to someone about what you are feeling or experiencing. Some people are too uncomfortable with grief, so find someone who can listen to you. If this is the first holiday without that person you may feel sad or lonely and sharing this with a trusted friend or loved one can help ease the pain. No one can take the pain from you, but they can support you during this time. You do not have to do it alone.
  2. Talk about what you miss about the person or what ritual you used to do together around this time. It is ok to have a ritual to acknowledge the person, such as lighting a candle for them, having their photo out during the celebrations, etc. I remember the first Christmas after my dad’s mother died we talked about the tradition we had done for years, what we missed and what new tradition we were going to create. This helped me acknowledge the sadness and normalize I wasn’t the only one feeling it. I still miss my grandma and her cooking and it has been many years since her death.
  3. Set aside some quiet time to reflect on that person. Cry if you need to. Journal if you need to. Look at photos or home videos. Sadness is okay. After your quiet time is done, go do another activity. Setting aside a specific amount of time can give you permission to feel the sadness, to continue to go in and out of the pain, without feeling overwhelmed. Doing another activity after that can help you believe you are more in control of your emotions vs. the emotions overwhelming you.
  4. Remind yourself that family gatherings are not about perfection, but are about spending time with each other. If you are not your normal “bubbly self” that is okay. Being where you are is enough and is okay.

Adults experience grief and loss differently than children. Children are more in the present moment and my say ‘I miss Grandma”, then go off and play with other kids. It is normal and natural.

With time the symptoms of grief should decrease. If your feelings intensify, you are withdrawing from others, struggling with depression and it has been several months since the death, it maybe time to seek professional help.

What are you going to do to give yourself permission to have compassion for yourself and/or your children? Think of some ways now that can help you feel more prepared for the holidays.

“There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.” by Washington Irving

Nicole Burgess is a licensed marriage and family therapist located in Indianapolis, IN. She works with adolescents, adults and families who struggle with anxiety, grief, depression or trauma. She is located close to Fishers, Lawrence, Noblesville, and Greenfield.