The holidays are supposed to be a happy time, right? While our culture likes to promote Christmas as a happy, care-free time, not everyone feels this way. Many of us are dealing with family stress, transition, loss, or financial struggles, and these problems tend to find a way to sour a bit of the holiday season.
Holidays can be a painful time for those who have experienced loss - whether it is the loss of a loved one, or the loss of a relationship. Often times we feel alone in our sadness, especially if we're not the type to talk about how we feel.
If you are experiencing the transition of being newly separated, divorced, or single you may find that there are many painful reminders of traditions you did with your partner or family, or happy memories of feeling connected with your past loved one. Stress around parenting arrangements may come up, as well as sadness that things are no longer the same with your family.
If someone you love has passed away, you may also find yourself being reminded of the closeness you felt to that person during this time, or of painful reminders around things that happened or didn't happen during past holidays. Some people even find that while they don't think much about these things, their body reminds them during this time through depression or feelings of emptiness.
It is normal to struggle with emotional pain after loss, especially during the holidays. While most of us would like to turn off the past memories and pain, it is essential to feel the emotions that come up. If we avoid how we feel, these emotions can manifest into things like depression, problems with anger, or anxiety.
The holiday season can be a time of growth. Maybe you've functioned by ignoring your emotions, keeping busy, or telling yourself to move on. Or perhaps you've felt flooded with uncontrollable emotions. There is always a choice to allow ourselves to feel our emotions, and find ways to comfort ourselves during this time. It can be as small as feeling our sadness and loss by noticing how this feels in our body, while also finding things that help calm us at the same time- such as a cup of tea or the warmth of a blanket.
Self-care is critical when grieving! Taking care of yourself through nutrition and exercise, and finding times for things you enjoy are important. Many find that reaching out for support from friends or loved ones is essential to their healing. Counselling can be a helpful way to get you through this time, especially if you have a hard time talking about how you feel, or don't have many people who you feel safe enough to share this with.
When we allow ourselves to feel some of the sad feelings, we also open ourselves up to feeling more joy in the long run. Grieving is a slow process, and yet a necessary part of moving forward in our life.