Grief comes in many sizes and shapes and often when least expected. It has no boundaries and unfortunately, the arrival of the holiday season does not stop it from happening. Nonetheless, there are ways to help cope with grief during what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.
Paula Christian-Stallworth, counselor at the Listening Ear Counseling Center in Conyers, pointed out that grief isn’t defined as just the loss of a loved one. Many people experience mental, emotional or even spiritual grief. A married couple may be grieving emotionally after experiencing a layoff. They can no longer afford the five bedroom home they were living in and this Christmas, they find themselves in a one bedroom apartment, barely able to buy a traditional Christmas meal, much less gifts. Grief has no age, sex or race limitations. Teens may grieve as the result of their parents’ divorce. Instead of spending New Year’s altogether, like they used to, they spend half the day with mom, and the other half with dad.
“We all grieve differently; the grief process is different for all of us,” said Stallworth.
No matter what type of grief you’re facing is, having to cope with it during the holidays is especially difficult. Here are some tips to help you get through it with a spirit of holiday warmth.
Surround yourself with people who love and support you. Robin Fiorelli, the Director of Bereavement and Volunteers at hospice company VITAS, said in an interview on the company’s website, “Share your plans with family and friends and let then know of any intended changes in holiday routine. Memories can sometimes be a source of comfort to the bereaved. Share your memories with others of holidays spent with your loved one by telling stories and looking at photo albums.”
Allow yourself to feel, allow yourself to grieve. “You may feel a variety of emotions including anger, blame, guilt, resentment, sadness, depression, denial and acceptance,” said Stallworth, “You may feel any of those or vacillate between one or the other. Allow yourself to feel what you feel.”
Talk about it. “Often people don’t talk about thinking there isn’t enough time to grieve, you need to get on with this or that, or feeling like you have to be strong for the sake of children or other family members.” said Stallworth. But talking about the memories of the loved one is encouraged. It’s okay to talk about the deceased person and what they meant or allow the grieving individual to talk about their loved one.
Take care of yourself. Fiorelli suggests, “Avoid using alcohol to self-medicate your mood. Physical exercise is often an anecdote for depression. Writing in a journal can be a good outlet for your grief expression. Buy yourself something frivolous that you always wanted but never allowed yourself to indulge in.”
Make plans. On days that you know will be difficult, it’s a good idea to make plans for some activity out of the house with someone, said parent Jana Crowe, who lost her son Jimmy “Bubba” Crowe almost 15 years ago. You can always cancel those plans on the day of if you’re not feeling up to it.
Where to call FOR HELP
- The Parent’s Support Group meets the first Thursday of the month, 7:30 p.m., Conyers First Baptist. Michelle Scott, (404) 386-1788.
- Listening Ear Counseling Center, 343 Salem Gate Drive, SE, Suite 203. Conyers, (770) 929-1470 or email@example.com.
- Care and Counseling Center of Georgia, Cindy Elrod, (404) 636-1457, cccgeorgia.org.
Create a new tradition or ritual that accommodates your current situation. Some people find comfort in the old traditions. Others find them unbearably painful.
Michelle Scott, coordinator of a Conyers support group for parents grieving the loss of their child, said “I tell people to be themselves… Do you. Do whatever makes you happy. Don’wt feel like you have to have traditional things.”
Discuss with your family the activities you want to include or exclude this year. Some examples of new rituals and traditions include:
Create a memory box. You could fill it with photos of your loved one or written memory notes from family members and friends. Young children could include their drawings in the memory box.
Make a decorative quilt using favorite colors, symbols or images that remind you of the person who died.
Light a candle in honor of your absent loved one.
Put a bouquet of flowers on your holiday table in memory of your loved one
Visit the cemetery and decorate the memorial site with holiday decorations.
Have a moment of silence during a holiday toast to honor your loved one.
No matter what form of grief you may face during this holiday season, what’s most important is surrounding yourself with loved ones, looking to the future, and taking care of yourself.
The Parent’s Support group meets the first Thursday of the month at 7:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Conyers. For more information, call Michelle Scott at (404) 386-1788.
Scott is also available for grieving parents and support group members. “If people need to get out, they can always call me and we can meet wherever they like. We do whatever we have to do to help each other get through that day and that week,” she said.
For more information on coping with the holidays, go to www.vitas.com/Services/LearnAboutHospice/BereavementSupport/GriefandBereavement/CopingwithGriefDuringtheHolidays.aspx