The holidays are upon us in full swing, and for many this can be a time of increased angst and despair. For those who have lost a loved one, the pain of their absence is even more profound. In fact, this is an especially tender month, and feeling emotionally fragile and vulnerable is not unusual.
Here are five ways to cope during the holiday season.:
1) Normalize your grief.
It is important to realize that despite the number of years that have passed since your loved one's death it is not unusual to feel your loss more intensely around this time. Don't be alarmed if you find that your emotions are frayed. It should come as no surprise if you feel isolated.
My late husband died in 2007, when I was 33, and my father died in 1979 when I was nearly five. Around late November, I go to the cemetery and put a wreath on my husband's grave, and the steps from my car to his gravestone are the longest and loneliest steps I take. And although I've been going to my father's grave around the holidays for over 30 years, it never gets easier.
For my book, "A Widow's Guide to Healing," I interviewed more than 100 widows and I can tell you that no one's grief is identical. In other words, you may know another widow and see that she appears to be coping differently, and wonder why you can't seem to be on her path. Her experience and the way that she handles grief is not going to be the same.
2) Set aside time to acknowledge your loss.
This may seem obvious to some, but there are many who try to keep their schedules packed this month in order to avoid having to think about their loved one.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you need to set aside an entire day or create a formal event to pay tribute to your family member or friend. However, setting aside a few moments to give yourself a good cry or reflect on their life is healthy. It allows you to be present with your loss, instead of trying to shove it out of your mind.
3) Ask for help.
Sometimes it is difficult to admit that you can’t do everything on your own. While you may want to appear pulled together, it is okay to reach out for assistance.