Dealing with Grief During the Holidays
While there are other critical dates and times that affect grieving people, the holiday season is the biggest stimulus to provoke memories and feelings about important people in our lives who have died or who are no longer present at our holiday celebrations and rituals because of divorce or other estrangements.
The principles and actions of The Grief Recovery Method are dedicated to helping people discover and complete what was left emotionally unfinished by a death, divorce, or other loss. In the interest of helping both grieving people and the friends and family near them, we present a set of holiday tips that give some basic, practical, and emotionally helpful guidance.
Here are ten tips. The first five relate primarily to the death of someone important to you. That person might have been a loved one or may have been what we call a less than loved one, but you will probably still be affected by their absence. The second set of five tips relates either to the death of a spouse or to divorce. We are not comparing those experiences, but we are suggesting that the tips can be helpful in either situation.
Holiday Grief Tips
The Death of Someone Important to You:
- Don’t Isolate Yourself. It’s normal and natural to feel lost and alone―but Don’t Isolate―even if you have to force yourself to be with people and participate in normal activities.
- Don’t misuse food or alcohol to cover up or push down your feelings. As children, when we were sad about something, we were often told, “Don’t feel bad. Here have a cookie, you’ll feel better.” The cookie doesn’t make the child feel better, it makes the child feel different and the real cause of the sadness is not addressed. When we get older, alcohol and drugs are used for the same wrong reasons―to mask feelings of sadness.
- Talk about your feelings, but don’t expect a quick fix. It’s essential to have someone you trust to talk to about your memories and the feelings they evoke. Ask your friend to just listen to you and not try to fix you. You’re sad, not broken, you just need to be heard.
- While it’s important to talk about your feelings, don’t dwell on them. Telling the same sad story over and over is not helpful―in fact, it can establish and cement a relationship to your pain. Better to just make a simple statement of how you feel in the moment. For example, say, “I just had a sad feeling of missing him.”
- Time doesn’t heal—actions do. The myth that time heals a broken heart is just that, a myth. Time can’t heal a broken heart any more than air can jump into a flat tire. Time just goes by. It’s the actions you take within time that can help you feel better.
Death of a Spouse or Divorce:
- Just because you feel lonely doesn’t mean you’re ready to start dating. Don’t start dating while your heart is still broken or you will guarantee that the next relationship will fail. Being ready to date is a function of the actions you take within time to repair your heart. This is valid whether you’re dealing with a death or divorce.
- Don’t get too busy—avoid hyperactivity. Be careful not to get too busy. Being super active just distracts you, it doesn’t really help you deal with your broken heart.
- Maintain your normal routines. Adapting to the changes in your life following a death or a divorce is an enormous adjustment. You are learning how to move from being with someone to being alone. It’s never a good idea to add a host of other changes while you’re trying to adapt to so much disruption in your life.
- Go through the pain, not under, over, or around it. It’s very tempting to try to avoid the pain associated with a broken heart. But it’s also a very bad idea. Whenever you skirt the pain, all you’re doing is pushing it away temporarily. It will always come back to haunt you.
- Find effective guidance or you will sabotage your future. While the grief of a broken heart is the normal reaction to the death of your mate or to the end of a romantic relationship, it’s very helpful to find effective tools to help you discover and complete everything that was left emotionally unfinished. Otherwise, you will drag your emotional baggage into the next relationship and ruin it before it really starts.
For most people, the first holiday season after a death or a divorce is the most painful. But that’s not true for everyone. For many, the second, third, and subsequent years are very painful. Since time doesn’t heal emotional wounds, people often report feeling worse as years go by. No matter when your loss occurred, it’s most important that you become aware that recovery is possible and to learn which actions will help you.
If you’re dealing with a death, go to the library or bookstore and get a copy of The Grief Recovery Handbook. The principles and actions of The Grief Recovery Method have been used by more than a half million people to help deal with the impact of the death of someone important to them.
If you’re dealing with the aftermath of a divorce or romantic breakup, go to the library or bookstore and get a copy of Moving On. The principles and actions in it will help you deal with your broken heart.
If your children are struggling with a loss of any type and any level of emotional intensity, go to the library or bookstore and get a copy of When Children Grieve.
The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman [HarperCollins]
When Children Grieve by John W. James and Russell Friedman, with Dr. Leslie Landon Matthews [HarperCollins]
Moving On by John W. James and Russell Friedman [M. Evans]