Holiday Grief

December 13, 2023

Written by:

Mindy Webb, M.S., LPC, CSC, Behavioral Health

Holiday Grief

Grief can sneak up on us during the holiday season.  Hearing a favorite song or seeing a family recipe can trigger thoughts and emotions that make grief more intense or more present than usual. The holiday season can also trigger memories and flashbacks that can be pleasant or unpleasant.  Having a few tools in your toolbox to help you through this time if you are experiencing grief, can make the process more peaceful.

Know that the feelings associated with grief are normal. The stages of grief, shock, denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance according to the Kubler-Ross Model. These stages are not linear and different stages can reemerge at different times. The emotions and thoughts associated with each stage are normal parts of the grief process.

Plan ahead for the holidays. Make a list of positive coping skills that you know helps you to distress and process your grief in a safe way. Make a list of friends to call if you need to reach out to someone. Seek professional help if you think it is necessary.

Do something special to honor your loved one or loved ones and celebrate memories in a unique way. Some examples could be:  write a letter to your loved one or write a journal entry, visit familiar places that spark pleasant memories, donate in their honor, light a candle, display photos, create a memory book or a memory box, talk to others about your loved one, visit the cemetery or place where ashes were scattered, cherish special keepsakes, or buy or make a special ornament.

The holidays are not always a pleasant time for those who are grieving or experiencing other mental illness. Experience Camps and The Harris Poll reported that 36 percent of all individuals responding reported not looking forward to the holiday season due to a sense of grief and loss and in one subgroup the percentage was as high as 52 percent. The same poll reported that 89 percent of respondents ‘agree that everyone should learn and talk about grief’ and that 86 percent of Americans agreed it should be conveyed as an ‘important mental health issue.’ Making a plan ahead of time can prevent extra stress during this season. If you are experiencing intense symptoms that are making it difficult to manage and function, please call our department for an appointment, or seek professional help.

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