Blue Christmas: 6 Tips for Coping with Grief During the Holidays

The rest of the world seems overjoyed with holiday spirit and yet you just want to get in bed and pull the covers over your head.  You’re grieving.  Perhaps your loss was quite recent or maybe it occurred years ago.  All you know is that you dread this time of year and cannot wait for it to be over.

While the holidays are definitely a challenge for grievers, using these 6 strategies will help you feel a little less blue.

Talk about your Loved One – Don’t be afraid to mention your loved one when you’re at a party or with friends and family.  Often people are reluctant to mention the deceased because they are afraid to ‘upset’ you.  They don’t realize that your loved one is always on your mind and that it’s healthy to reminisce.  Be the one to share memories and to encourage conversation.

Express your Feelings – Holding in pent up emotion is not healthy.  If you want to cry, let yourself cry.  If you need to express anger, write in a journal.  Try creative arts to express the many feelings you’re experiencing.  Use on-line sites to connect with other grievers and talk about your feelings.  Letting yourself feel the pain and then finding expression for that pain is an important aspect to healing.

Light a Candle – Light a memorial candle at the holiday dinner table to honor the light of your loved one.  Remember that although their physical form has gone, they are very much still a part of your life.  Hold that love close to your heart and remember that your life has been enriched by their love.

Shop and Share – A frequent sadness for grievers is not being able to shop for their loved one.  Try going shopping for things that you might have purchased for your dear one and then donating those items to a homeless shelter, a hospital, or a charity.

Cut Yourself Slack – Be extremely gentle and kind to yourself.  If you don’t feel like going to a party, don’t go.  If you don’t want to send cards, then don’t send them.  Do the absolute minimum necessary for you to celebrate the holidays.  Grieving is exhausting and you simply won’t have extra energy to expend.  When possible, ask friends and neighbors to help you with tasks that feel overwhelming.  Try to do your shopping on-line.  Set your bar low and give yourself permission to take it easy.

Simple Pleasures – Even if your heart is broken, you can look for simple pleasures to savor.  See if you can find one tiny thing each day for which you can be grateful.  Notice your health, your loved ones who are still living, even small sensory pleasures like tastes, smells, and sounds.  Try shining the focus of your attention on small things in your life that bring you some happiness.

Using these tips will help ease you through the holidays.  Remember that grieving is one of the most universal of all experiences – you are not alone.

Originally Published in US Daily Review – December 18, 2011

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4 thoughts on “Blue Christmas: 6 Tips for Coping with Grief During the Holidays

  1. Deborah Santos

    I am just sick of the thought of the holidays coming and dont know what to do. I have lost my 23 yr. old son 13 yrs. ago to a violent murder and 2 years ago I lost my only, youngest son at 22 yrs. old and within 6 months my mom’s cancver declined and she passed away in my arms. I have a husband, but I cant seem to shake any of this and feel like I lost my entire family and I honestly do not know how to live any more or what to do any more. It is like, I dont want to bake my pretty holiday cookies for the boy’s, they atre gone, not only that but the reason I loved baking was for them, the feelings I use to have about the baking atre gone. I dont know where to turn next. I am so glad that I read your greif writing’s and found your web site and hope that I can find some thing here to help me heal…. Deborah Santos

  2. AshleyAshley Post author

    Dear Deborah — Thanks for sharing. I am sorry for your so many profound losses. This can especially be a difficult time of year. I hope that my writings will be helpful to you. I would say that you want to take all the love you have for your sons and your mother and spread it to others in your life. Also, you may want to bake those beautiful cookies and donate them to a shelter in their honor. Be kind to yourself and take it one minute at a time. Peace, Ashley

  3. Jade

    Thank you for this article. I am facing my first Christmas season after the loss of a very close family member, and I feel like the Grinch whenever I refuse an invitation to a large festive gathering or to go shopping for presents with friends for our families together. I personally do want to acknowledge that this is a special time of year, but this year I just want to take advantage of the time I have off to spend on inner reflection and not holiday craziness… and not even celebrate the “warmth of being with loved ones”, because those feelings are ones I associate with the person who died. But how cold-hearted or naive does it seem that I am glad to be spending Christmas by myself?

  4. Ashley

    Dear Jade,
    Your sentiments sound quite grounded and true. You don’t sound cold-hearted or naïve at all. In fact, this time of year can be perfect for inner reflection. Consider yourself ‘on retreat’ and leave the craziness of the holidays far behind you. I am wishing you peace, Ashley

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