“I dread Thanksgiving and Christmas,” the young woman softly shared. “I know as a Christian I should be celebrating the birth of Christ. But my mom passed away this year, and my husband lost his job. Every time a holiday song comes on the radio, or I smell the scent of pine I burst into tears. I can’t seem to control it.”
For those experiencing a loss, October through December can be excruciatingly painful. Death, separation, divorce, illness, family trauma, job loss or moving to a new location result in tremendous grief which can make the holidays difficult.
Therefore, here are a few practical tips.
PREPARE – The ambush of emotions can attack at any time; prepare beforehand.
ACCEPT – the difficulty of this time of year and your loss. Remind yourself that it’s a season and it will pass.
SOCIALIZE – Don’t hibernate. Insecure feelings may tempt you to isolate, but force yourself to go out even if it’s only for a short time.
LOWER your expectations – Movies and songs paint an unrealistic picture of the holidays.
JOIN – a support group. Many churches offer holiday sessions specifically designed for this time of year.
DON’T ANESTHETIZE the pain with drugs or alcohol – Numbing emotional distress with chemicals creates more depression.
TRIMMING – If old ornaments or trimmings cause too much pain, decide to keep them in the box this year. Put them aside for another time.
GET UP AND MOVE – Take care of your physical well-being. Healthy foods will give you strength; fattening and sugar-filled foods can worsen your depression. Exercise produces natural stress reducers.
SHOP – online if going to the mall or the hustle of large groups of people is too stressful.
COPING STRATEGY – Have the phone number of your counselor, pastor, church, close friend or hotline already taped to your phone. Make the commitment to call someone if negative thoughts get fierce.
LIGHT – Get sunshine. Winter can take its toll on the emotions due to the loss of sunlight.
INVITE – a new friend to see a funny movie, have dinner or help decorate the house.
SET BOUNDARIES – Precisely explain to your family and friends what you are capable of doing this year, and what you aren’t. Don’t let others guilt you into taking on more than is manageable.
REACH OUT – by discovering others who might be alone during the holidays.
IT WILL PASS – Sometimes just “getting through it” is the best a person can do when experiencing a difficult time. There should be no shame or guilt for those hurting emotions.