Grief & Difficult Times of the Year

December 11, 2015

Here are 4 simple principles* for getting through difficult times.
It could be the holidays.
Or maybe the anniversary of your loved one’s death.
Their birthday.
Your birthday.
Family events.

These times are intense, emotional and rocky.
You probably already know that.
Did you know they also provide opportunities
to reflect on your loss,
honor your beloved
and to think about your future?

I’m going to walk you through these principles
using the example of the holidays.

1. Anticipate and plan for the day(s).

You might want to avoid the holidays altogether
because they hurt too much.
This often makes it worse.
Having a plan can help you feel less helpless.
A sense of control can lower the intensity of your grief.
So, figure out which days will probably be the hardest for you
Christmas Eve? Christmas Day? New Years Eve?
Make your plan and let it be a compass as you navigate the holidays.

2. Expect to be sad.  Focus on self-care.

You’ll be sadder than usual and miss them even more.
It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you
or you’re back where you started.
No need to be worried or critical of yourself.
It’s just how it is.
However, you do get to decide what to do about it.
You might want to just let yourself be sad.
Or maybe you’ll want to plan things that help you feel less so.
Some folks go for distractions.
Whatever you do, try to be with others.
Try to let in their love.

3. Keep some focus on your own life. Find something that give you joy or pleasure.

This might feel like a tall order during the holidays.
It’s on of the challenges of grief: trying to find a way to keep on living
while you’re grieving.
Build in some time for something you enjoy. No matter how small.
See if you can open to some positive emotions about your beloved.
Time in nature is a good place to start for most of us.

4. Find ways to honor your person who died.

I don’t know what this will look like for you.
Maybe cooking one of their favorite foods.
Visit the cemetery. Light a candle. Do something they liked to do.
Write about them. Tell their story. Say their name.
Include their memory in your holiday festivities.
Find a way to keep cherishing them and caring for them,
even though it will look different than when they were alive.

Since these difficult days can’t be avoided,
I recommend you choose to lean into them instead.

You might just feel a bit better,
feel more connected to your loved one,
more hopeful about your future
and have a sense of empowerment
in coming to terms with your loss.

Let me know how it goes for you.

As for me? I’m walking my talk.
Last weekend I placed a wreath on my parents’ grave.
I’m on the look-out for simple joys and
planning for my hardest days.
Oh yeah–more water, less caffeine.
That falls under Principle 2.


*Nancy Turret & M.Katherine Shear, “Working with Difficult Times”.



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