Grief, Loss and Holidays
Not long ago, a colleague of mine, a wonderful and gifted therapist, expressed surprise at how cloudy she felt – she said she felt like she was trying to wade through molasses. Time seemed all distorted and she couldn’t focus or concentrate. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” she said. The other therapists and counselors within earshot were incredulous. “Your mother just died!” someone finally said. Indeed, her mother had died just three weeks before. “Do you really think that’s it?’ she asked.
Grief overwhelms everyone differently. We all grieve losses, whether they are the death of a loved one or the loss of a relationship, job, or way of life. We grieve in our own way – there is no right way to grieve. Yes, there are identifiable stages of grief – like those outlined by E;isabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying – and those stages don’t necessarily proceed in order or by a particular timetable. We may feel denial, disorientation, confusion, anger, deep sadness and acceptance – then circle back around to anger, confusion, more anger, more disorientation and the hopeless feeling we’ll never be the same again. That’s because we won’t. But we will get better, do better, feel better with time.
The late fall and holiday season is difficult for so many of us who have suffered losses. A loved one won’t be there this year for the first time. Or maybe someone in the household has lost a job and Christmas is a time for anxiety instead of joy. The early darkness as the days shorten add to the anxiety or maybe lethargy that accompanies grief. It is difficult to muster any energy to prepare for the holidays.
If this is true for you, try this: 1) Give yourself a break. You don’t have to do all the things you usually do for the holidays – do those things that mean the most to you. 2) Take care of yourself. Eat well and eat regularly. If eating comforts you, choose nutrient dense foods instead of junk or high fat/high sugar. 3) Limit alcohol. Alcohol (and other drugs) is used to take the edge off – and it works in the the short run. But it compounds depression over time. 4) Get some exercise in the sunshine – whenever you can. It’s not always easy in winter but make the effort. A brisk walk in sunshine – even 15 minutes – can work wonders. 5) Get to bed on time. Keep a regular bedtime even if you aren’t sleeping well. Overall self-care and reducing expectations of yourself can get you through a tough holiday season.