Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s topic.
Growing up, I loved the holidays. My dad always made them so special and we had so many great traditions. This year, though, will be different because I lost him a few months ago and am dreading the upcoming weeks. To top it all off, getting together with family is impossible due to COVID-19 group guidelines. I don’t want to completely miss out on the holidays, but I’m just not sure how to face them alone. What can I do?
In our most recent blog, we discussed helping your family cope with the holidays during COVID-19. And while the effects and changes caused by the pandemic are something we’re all dealing with, Rice Psychology Group understands that there are other reasons you may be dreading the holiday season. Let’s look at them below.
It’s Okay to Not be Okay
Experiencing the grief and pain of losing a loved one, especially around the holidays, is nothing new. It’s something so many people go through. After 2020, it can feel like the easiest thing to do is to put those feelings aside. An article by Amy Morin suggests doing that may just be a bad idea.
Morin says that, while it’s incredibly tempting to pretend your grief and the holidays simply don’t exist, temporarily avoiding the pain only prolongs it, and in some cases, makes it worse. Morin goes on to remind us that time won’t heal the pain you feel after losing a loved one, but experiencing the holidays will get easier if you allow yourself to process your grief now.
Giving yourself time to grieve and experience these unpleasant feelings aren’t the only ways Morin offers to cope, though. A few other tips she suggests include:
- Set healthy boundaries – Know what you can and can’t handle. You don’t have to attend every holiday event or say yes to every person who tries to convince you otherwise. Stand your ground and only do what makes you feel comfortable and what you’re ready to do.
- Focus on what you can control – While you can control where you go and what you participate in, you won’t be able to control everything like holiday music playing in a waiting room or hearing coworkers discuss holiday plans. Instead of allowing these moments to upset you because they’ll remind you of your loss, the holidays, and how yours will be different, think about lessening these uneasy feelings instead. And keep in mind that life goes on and it’s okay to see people celebrate the year.
- Create new traditions – If continuing the same traditions with your loved ones is just too hard because they bring up memories of your loss, try changing it up or make new ones! Adjusting them can help a lot.
- Plan ahead – Like most things, the anticipation for the holidays may actually be worse than the holidays! Create a plan to get through this. For example, if you’ll be attending a small get-together, drive yourself so you can leave when you need to. You’ll enjoy it a little more if you don’t feel stuck.
- Ask us for help (this one is our tip) – Often, dealing with grief alone is overwhelming, especially during the first holiday season without a loved one who’s passed. Speaking with one of our licensed psychologists is a great way to express your feelings and start your journey of dealing with your grief.
Guilt and Grief
While the holidays can be sad without a certain loved one, they can also be rough if you put blame on yourself. It’s easy to look back and regret certain decisions or wish you’d said something caring before their passing. It’s important to be kind to yourself. Nobody is perfect, so don’t spend the season punishing yourself for what you think you did wrong. Instead, remember the good memories and be thankful they exist.
You Can Get Through This
Our team of licensed psychologists and therapists in Tampa are here to listen and offer helpful tips that can get you through this season without your loved one(s). We currently offer private, online sessions via telehealth as well as a number of telehealth and in-person evaluations for all ages. Contact us to schedule your complimentary, 10-minute consultation.