To Your Health: Grief at the Holidays
The first Thanksgiving after my father passed away, we started hosting the feast at our house. I made a cranberry compote recipe I found in Better Homes and Gardens. I was feeling especially proud of making it from scratch as it gelled together when tears came to my eyes. Dad would have preferred the cranberries you slide out of the can and slice. The year of “firsts” following the loss of a loved one can be particularly challenging. And it’s common to have a swell of grief around the holidays.
Amy Morin, a licensed clinical social worker, provided several strategies in Psychology Today to help people who are grieving during the holidays.
First, trust that grief is part of healing. While it might be tempting to pretend the holidays don’t exist this year, avoiding the pain prolongs the anguish. Next, set healthy boundaries. You don’t have to say yes to every invitation. You can also focus on what you can control. You can’t control the Christmas music playing in a waiting room, but you could choose to shop online this year to avoid the music at the mall. Just remember that life goes on for other people and it's OK that they're happy to celebrate this year.
Plan ahead for how to handle what you may fear will be your pitfalls this season. Create new traditions by finding a way to honor your loved one and doing something kind for others. Keep in mind that it is normal and healthy to experience a wide range of emotions. However, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you recognize any of these warning signs listed by Harvard Health: increased use of alcohol or tobacco, significant weight loss or gain, continual trouble sleeping, or suicidal thoughts.
Grief takes no holiday. (2002). Harvard Women’s Health Watch,10(4), 1.