Direct from
Dr. Lowenstein

Coping with Grief during the Holidays

Although young people and adults generally follow the same approach to coping with grief, the intensity of their grief may vary. Disbelief and shock will likely be followed by crying, then anger, and later—a period of helpless dependence. Finally, after a period of grieving, a person accepts the loss. The best thing a friend or family member can do is to stay close to a grieving person and let that person express his or her feelings.

When the holidays arrive, it’s difficult to live without the person you’ve lost. If you are facing your first holiday without that person, it’s good to be aware that it will probably be a painful time and you may wonder how you’re going to endure it. Remember, grief cannot be rushed. Although some well-meaning people may insist on continually cheering you up or giving you advice about what you should or should not do—or feel–only you know how you really feel. As much as possible, own up to the fact that something terribly important has happened in your life.

Here are a few suggestions that may help you face the holiday celebrations during a time of grief:

Be realistic about the holidays. Don’t expect them to solve your problems or produce a magical feeling.

Accept the reality of your grief. Instead of trying to suppress your feelings, realize that it’s okay to cry as much as you need to. And understand that the holidays will seem to intensify your sense of loss.

Look for the good in your life. From good friends to a good job, express and feel gratitude for the things in life that you value and appreciate.

Take care of yourself. Eat a balanced meal and minimize your sugar, alcohol, tobacco and caffeine intake as they can increase depression and lower your immune system. At the same time, get plenty of rest and don’t overload your schedule. Instead, make time to do things that nurture you—either alone or with someone else of your choosing.

Lower your expectations. Just because you think something should happen during the holidays doesn’t mean it needs to take place.

Choose to spend time with people who can support you. It’s okay to make special plans for the holidays, such as spending time with family, traveling or volunteering.

Find someone to confide in who truly understands what you are experiencing. A grief support group can be invaluable during the holidays, or anytime, to offer support, suggestions and companionship. Someone who has “been there” is usually more sensitive and understanding than a close and well-meaning family member. Ask for help or companionship when you need it.

Create a simple memorial ritual for special days to honor the person who has died. This might include lighting a candle, planting a flower, visiting a special place or making a donation.

Maintain and cultivate a sense of humor. Try not to take the holidays—or any day—too seriously. If life seems too serious or intense, have a good laugh. Laughing is a great way to release tension and stress.

• Rely on your source of spiritual support in your own personal way. Take time to nurture that which sustains your definition of Love and Truth in the highest sense.