Dr. Suzanne B. Phillips

Licensed Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, Diplomate in Group Psychology, Certified Group Therapist, Author, Radio Host and Media Consultant Covering a Wide Range of Psychological Topics

Post: Coping with Loss At the Holidays: You Are Not Alone

You Are Not Alone 

Sometimes people who have suffered loss of a loved one feel like they are looking through a glass at a world that is preparing to enjoy a holiday they can neither feel nor be a part of. They feel a dreadful sense of estrangement from normal life. It is not uncommon. Regardless of what you see in the media or read on the greeting cards, lots of folks are carrying emotional pain during the holidays-  You are not alone – you are human.

Sudden Loss

If the trauma has just occurred, you may be reeling from the event, disorganized, grieving, distracted – It can feel hard to believe that your loved one is gone. In the journey from loss to grieving it takes time to grasp what has happened. The holidays can make it difficult. You may have a mix of  feelings..There may be tears as you bake, a wish to be with family and a fear of how you will feel without your loved one there. There may be the longing to have your life the way it used to be and the dread of facing a holiday with things so different. It is OK – take one step at a time – you are allowed to change your mind and your step.

Anniversary Events 

Sometimes the loss of a loved one from a year or more ago may have taken  place near or around the Holidays. As a result, that day and the holiday season may be triggers for painful memories, feelings of grief and physical stress. Such feelings make sense and may recur for many years although not with the same intensity or impact.

It is very helpful for family members to validate such feelings in each other even if they may not be crying the same tears or having the same memories. Listening compassionately and bearing witness to a family member or friend’s feelings of sadness or grief usually makes the grieving family member feel understood and supported. Often you will find that the anticipation of the holidays is far worse than the holidays themselves.

 Do It for the Children

Loss around the holiday time can leave us feeling both frozen and exhausted. However, if you have heard people say – “ If you can’t do it for yourself- do it for the children,” they are right. It is often a gift in disguise.

Children are the reason for hope and the motivation to keep going after trauma and loss. Children need you and they need to know that life goes on. When a family has faced traumatic events and/or  loss of a loved one, the children know it. Often they are not sure what it may mean. If it involves the loss of a family member- children often suffer not only from that loss but the wellbeing of those around them who are suffering.

Children need to stay involved with life. It does not mean that they won’t understand the meaning of loss – it means they need help so as not to become overloaded with sadness or even blame or shame that they wish for some aspect of the holiday. They don’t need everything, they just need some feeling of holiday- of hope.

 Who Said It Has To Be Conventional?

If needed, give yourself permission to find another day or another way to have the Holidays. The novel and the unexpected picnic on the beach, the trip to another part of the country, the pizza movie party can change the set and reduce the reality of life having suddenly or painfully changed.  Most children are happy to be doing anything together.

Reach to Help Others in Need

Many people find that reaching out to others at the Holiday times brings some peace and lightens the emotional pain. People often say their pain and loss is softened through generosity and focus on others. Some help by serving meals at shelters, taking pets to visit someone alone; packing boxes for troops, cooking for a family that has suffered in a similar way, etc.  Given that loss often leaves us feeling helpless, being helpful to others reinstates a reason to go forward with hope.

Hold on to Your Loved One as you Journey Through this Holiday

It is important to remember, as you negotiate these holidays, that the role of grieving is not to disconnect from the loved one you have lost; but to go on with life as you preserve an attachment to that person. Embrace the memories and hold your loved one in your head and heart in a way that makes going on possible.

“ I can no longer see you with my eyes

Touch you with my hands,

But I will feel you in my heart- Forever”

All Great Quotes.com