The lights are aglow on the tree, the traditional tunes are playing in the background, and everyone is ready for a festive celebration.
All you want to do is shut off all the lights, turn off the music, and curl up on the couch.
But everyone is here, you don’t want to ruin anyone’s holiday (especially for the kids), and so you go through the motions as though everything is fine. But internally, you know it’s not.
How can everyone be so happy when you feel so empty and sad?
And, it doesn’t just start and stop at the holidays.
It’s in the quiet on a special anniversary, it’s passing the exit he/she used to live off of, it’s watching your kids graduate without a loved one being there to see.
It’s grief – and as much as we want it to go away, it never does. The only thing we can do is learn to live with it in a healthy and positive manner – for the health of ourselves and our families.
We work with many clients that suffer from unprocessed grief, which can result in both emotional and physical symptoms and illness. As we approach the holidays, we want to provide suggestions on how to get through them in a realistic and healthy manner.
Here are 3 essential ways to get through moments of grief for when the moment hits you:
1. Lean In and Sit With It.
Have you ever turned off the radio or switched stations when a song comes on that reminds you of a loved one that has passed?
If so, you’re not alone.
In our western culture, it’s common to stuff our feelings aside and compartmentalize them for another time.
When turning that station, have you thought, “I’m just not in the mood to think about that (or to be sad, cry, etc.). I’ll deal with that when I feel up to it.”
There always seems to be a reason why we can’t sit with our feelings at that moment. But, what is that doing to our emotional and physical health?
By putting our grief aside, trying to ignore it, and pushing through, we are susceptible for such symptoms and illness as, but not limited to:
– panic attacks
– trouble sleeping
– foggy mind
– GERD/acid reflux
– chronic pain
– low immunity
The next time grief hits you, take care of yourself and LEAN IN. It’s okay and good for you to cry. It’s okay to not cry and feel anger or sadness. It’s okay to excuse yourself from the party and take a walk around the block or sit in the bathroom until it passes.
Just try keeping the song on sometimes and let your emotions out.
2. Give Yourself What You Need.
We talk about self-care, but let’s be honest – it’s not as easy as we think.
As we get into the holidays, or the anniversaries of births or deaths get closer, we can become more anxious and overwhelmed. How are we going to handle the day? How are we going to get through it? How will I not feel guilty about doing anything other than grieving that day?
By providing care for yourself and taking the day one minute, one hour, one holiday at a time.
It’s important that you recognize what you need rather than avoiding it. Even though others may choose to not talk about it, ignoring what has happened won’t help anyone process the trauma in a healthy way – no matter how long it has been since it happened.
– Start by being honest with yourself. Are you sad? Angry? Feeling alone?
– Then consider what would help you make space for these feelings. Is it spending time by yourself, journaling, and thinking? A day in bed to cry? Time with your spouse to talk without interruptions? More time with your religious community? Some acupuncture appointments to relieve stress and clear your mind?
– Lastly, follow through WITHOUT GUILT! We may not think a day in bed is productive, but by allowing our body to grieve and rest may be the best thing we can do for ourselves.
Taking care of yourself can be more than a manicure and night out with the girls (even though those are fun, too!). Acknowledging you are dealing with grief and making time and space to process that grief is a healthy and freeing way to get through tough times.
3. Create New Rituals.
If the thought of trying to cook mom’s gourmet holiday dinner makes your body tense just thinking about it, it may be time to be kind to yourself and to others by creating a new ritual.
Yes, it’s important to lean into our feelings of grief, but it’s also okay to start new traditions that honor your loved one’s legacy rather than copying it.
This can be part of a healthy grieving process and can help you transition into celebrating the time you had with them rather than only grieving the loss you feel. Although this can be difficult at first, over time, new rituals can give meaning to holidays and anniversaries in a special way that allows his/her life to be honored.
Some ideas are:
– going to their favorite restaurant, sharing their favorite meal
– a day skiing or snowboarding, hiking, or snowshoeing by yourself
– lighting a candle in their honor
– getting away and taking a vacation (who says holidays have to be spent cooking and doing dishes at home?!)
– volunteering at a local charity
– running a 5k or more to help raise money for cures or causes
– sharing memories around the table and having Kleenex ready for those who need it
– making a family goal in their honor and doing it together (such as reaching the top of a certain hike, finishing a large puzzle, watching one of their favorite movies)
These are just a few ideas to provide inspiration of what you can do. Be creative and it’s okay to invite the family or for it to be something personal on your own.
Most importantly, when processing grief, give yourself as much as love as you do others. A day in bed is not depression (although, a month may be), and time by yourself is not selfish. It can be just what the naturopathic doctor ordered!
If you live in Castle Rock, Castle Pines, Lone Tree, Highlands Ranch, Centennial, Parker, Larkspur, Monument, Colorado Springs, or the Greater Denver Metro area and are suffering from grief, please contact us.
Dr. Graves has a profound outlook on grief and can help your mind and body process it. Schedule a complimentary 15 minute phone consultation here or contact us at (303) 688-6698.
Make these holidays a growing experience where you become stronger – just know that you may have to show a little vulnerability to get there.
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