Christmas magic may be overshadowed by tragic truth for you or someone you know this holiday season. The loss of a loved one, financial hardships, disabling illness, and a lonely heart are a far cry from the promise of peace.
Studio 5 Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Liz Hale provides ways to ensure we can foster memorable moments in spite of disappointment and pain.
Whether a loved one died recently or decades ago, on or near a holiday, the two events are forever linked and that may be particularly painful especially if there are unresolved feelings about the lost relationship. And in this painful period of adjustment families are often wondering what to do with themselves, each other, and all their family traditions.
Be Flexible: Simplify & Create New Traditions
“Traditions” are not simple activities we do; they mark who and what we are. But simplifying what’s usually done around the holidays, remaining flexible in those long-held traditions, will be the first place to start.
eep the celebrations simply. Cancel social engagements if you don’t feel up to all of them. Be selective and keep what you do decide to do meaningful. Find a way to honor your loved one!
Grief is such a difficult thing to understand – it’s not just going through specific predetermined stages and you’re done!
Address Feelings & Stay Closely Connected
It’s very important to understand that grief is cumulative. We don’t simply experience a loss, move through certain steps, and emerge freely on the other side. Grief is not so clean. Grief is more like adding rocks into a backpack. Each loss, be it a death, divorce, or move away from family and friends, is like one more rock being added to the backpack. Sometimes, one of these emotional rocks we haven’t come to terms with may come tumbling out of the backpack when we’re least expecting it. It can present itself as depression, road rage, substance abuse, or lashing out verbally or physically. Pay attention and when you hear a rock rip through your backpack, work through your feelings. Don’t just shove it back in the pack unaddressed! And keep in mind that all of us have different shapes and sizes of backpacks because we each have our own unique history. Your pathway of grief will look like no other. Don’t make judgments on how another is “doing’ grief; support them on their journey; just listen and love.
So many people feel alone this time of year; perhaps because they have either lost a family member or they live far away from home or they’re just simply tired of going through another romantic holiday without a special someone.
Treat Yourself – Indulge in Something Special
We hurt especially during the holidays either because of either what we’ve lost or have never found. It’s time to map out a strategy that takes good care of you and keeps your spirits up. Don’t worry about spending time, energy, and a little money just on yourself. If there is something that you would really enjoy and it won’t put you in debt, now is the time to get it. Wrap it up and put a card on it that says, “Merry Christmas,” or “Happy Hanukah” – and then go spread that joy to another. Address your own needs so you are able to assist those around you and just simply feel the joy that brings you.
Sometimes when we’re feeling down and out, it feels like you just want the holidays to pass as quickly as possible. That’s one way to handle them….to wish them away. Or, we could take advantage of the time of year when people are more generous of spirit…and just really let it in!
Embrace the Beauty & Giving of the Season
Absorb the holiday cards instead of ignoring them. I’ve been guilty of tossing cards aside because of the typical holiday stress! Let’s make a commitment to sit long enough to feel the words and greetings of a card someone takes the time to send us. Now, more than ever, we need to embrace all the good intentions and sentiments that accompany this time of year into our very souls.
Let the light in, both literally and metaphorically. Be sure there is plenty of light in your life. Keep the lights bright at home, try to get out when the sun is shining, light a fire in the fireplace. Winter darkness can be psychologically and physiologically depressing so turn up the lights and the music that soothe your soul!
The truth is – there is always someone else who is suffering even more in their particular circumstance.
Count Your Blessings & Share with Others
I think that when it comes right down to it if we had the chance to change places with someone else, we almost always would prefer to maintain out own lot in life. THIS we know how to manage. When I think of suffering, I think of families in poverty. Statistically speaking, if we drove across the country, every ninth household we passed would have been unable to afford sufficient food for themselves or their family at some point in the past year. Especially during the holiday season, when we’re surrounded by images of material abundance, we need to remember that millions of Americans are having trouble making ends meet. In our community, we have the opportunity to give meaningful gifts that ring enormous returns. Call your local homeless shelters, take mittens and blankets to our homeless neighbors living on the streets…do what you can to give warmth and joy and benefit from its high return.
Concentrate on the blessings you do have – misery and gratitude cannot occupy the same space in our psychological house. Don’t expect the holidays to erase your pain, but allow them to ease it. My favorite symbol this time of year is the evergreen tree. Because they stay green when other trees appear to be dead and bare, evergreen trees symbolize immortality, resiliency, and rebirth.
Additional Resource: www.GriefNet.org.
Please click here (www.drlizhale.com) for more information and to add your comments!