For many of us, the holidays are about spending time with friends and family, good food and drinks, and helping others in need. But for those of us who have suffered a recent loss, coping with holidays can be painful, isolating, and tremendously difficult.


4 Things to Remember when coping with holidays after a loss:


1. Recognize you’re not alone


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Coping with holidays after a loss can feel lonely and isolating, however just because it feels that way, doesn’t mean it has to be that way. If it makes sense for you, find a support group or tap into your own support system.


It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one struggling with pain and loss during the holiday season. Every where you turn, people seem happy, putting up decorations, buying gifts and making holiday plans. But it’s important to recognize the reality right now, which that is you’re not alone. There are plenty of people all over the world who have experienced loss.

Find a support group to connect with or tap into your personal support system to create a sense of connectedness to others during this painful time. Sometimes being around others, especially those who are dealing with the same emotional pain that we are, can be cathartic.


2. Feel your pain


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The most critical (and often difficult) part of coping with holidays after a loss is to allow yourself to feel your feelings. It’s natural to want to distract and avoid the discomfort, but this is only kicking the can down the road.


No one expects you to be joyful and in the holiday mood right now, so don’t try to pretend to be for others’ sake. It’s important that you recognize and open up to whatever emotions you may be experiencing, whether it’s sadness, anger, regret or a combination.

Take time to sit with and feel your feelings. For many people, this is the most difficult part of grieving and therefore, why most don’t take the time to do so. However, this is also the most important aspect of coping with grief.


3. Take your time


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It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday rush. However, after a loss it might not be the best idea. Take your time and don’t overdo it.


The holidays are usually a busy time for people. There is much to accomplish and many events to host and/or attend. But remember: you don’t have to keep your normal schedule this year. The reality is you won’t have the mental or emotional stamina for it.

So take the time you need. If you don’t feel like attending many, or any, events this year, don’t worry about it. People will understand. And if they don’t, well what does that tell you about them then?


4. Help others in need


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Believe it or not, one of the most effective ways to cope with holidays (or any kind of emotional distress) is to help those less fortunate than yourself.


One of the worst parts about losing a loved one is feeling that we no longer have any control over our lives. Loss creates feelings of helplessness like nothing else can. One way to cope with this feeling is to help others who are in need. As a bonus, connecting with others who are hurting can also be cathartic and reassuring as well.


When these guidelines Don’t apply


If you have children, it’s important to understand that they’re looking to you right now to know that life will be like moving forward. To a child, the loss of a parent or sibling and frighten them terribly. Though you may not at all feel like celebrating the holidays, doing so helps your child know that life goes on and then there is space in your life to feel joy along with sadness.

Coping with holidays after a loss can feel overwhelming and daunting without the right mindset and support system. If you’re struggling with the holidays blues or grief, find and awesome therapist or life coach you like and trust to help you navigate your emotions and create coping strategies.


James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists reduce stress, increase fulfillment and enhance performance so they can move From Surviving To Thriving.