By Diane Bonilla, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor in Northern Virginia
The holiday season is upon us and life is marching forward, but for some, your minds and your hearts are standing still, grieving the death of a loved one amidst what feels like an incoming storm. Even if the loss is from the past, holiday time is ripe with reminders of these people once thriving in your lives. Grief can be a lonely experience and the pandemic has made it more challenging to grieve and get support in the usual
It is important during the 2020 holiday season to consider alternative ways of getting support and expressing grief. The following are three steps to help you cope as you tend to your grief or when you feel overwhelmed by a blizzard of holiday pressures. The choices you make are unique to you. There is no “correct” or “normal” way to grieve. Grief is as unique as a snowflake, so the path taken is entirely up to you.
If you are experiencing loss, it is important, but often challenging, to be able to function throughout the holiday season. Knowing how to re-regulate or reset yourself when feeling overwhelmed by the pain and sadness of loss is paramount.
- For some that may mean tuning into their breathing for a few minutes with deep but gentle, calming breaths.
- Box breathing, used by the Navy SEALS, is another breathing tool to calm the nervous system. Box breathing activates the Vagus Nerve, which in turn lowers our blood pressure and heart rate so we begin to feel calm and reset. Box breathing involves four steps: breathe in for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, breathe out for a count of 4, hold for a count of 4, repeat.
- Or just try taking a walk outside without using your phone. The goal here is to re-regulate or reset your system when your feel overwhelmed with loss. Remember, grief is as unique as a snowflake, so the path taken is entirely up to you.
CONSIDER HOLIDAY TRADITIONS
‘Tis the season for so many traditions. If your deceased loved one was part of a family holiday tradition, consider your feelings about this.
- Do you want to continue the tradition to honor your loved one?
- If this is too painful, perhaps start a new tradition that celebrates your loved one’s life.
- The whole family can get involved with this decision. Kids can be quite honest with their feedback and can help guide you.
The important thing here is to discuss your traditions with your family. Keep in mind, family members grieve differently and will have different ideas. Remember, grief is as unique as a snowflake, so the path taken is entirely up to you.
INCREASE YOUR SUPPORT
Now is a great time to consider meeting with a therapist through Telehealth. Grief support groups are also a great resource.
- David Kessler, renowned author of six grief and loss books, has created a free private pop-up group on Facebook for those experiencing the loss of a loved one. The group is called “Grief: Releasing Pain, Remembering Love, & Finding Meaning.” One can request membership by following this link where a supportive grieving community awaits. David invites regular live speakers to assist you in the grieving process and community members support one another through the daily struggles of grief. You can post or just read.
- Griefshare.org is a volunteer led Christian based group that meets for 13 weeks. Groups are mostly virtual and you can join in at any time during the 13 week program. Grief Share uses workbooks, videos, and supportive discussions.
- OptionB.org is a great online resource, focusing on resiliency and has personal stories to help those who are facing loss.
- Check out TEDx Talk, “What 40 Steps Taught Me About Love and Grief,” by Tembi Locke.
These are just some of the many ways to build up your support system during the holiday season. At times, life will feel like an incoming blizzard. Remember to reset, talk about traditions with your significant others and increase your emotional support. And of course, remember, your grief is as unique as a snowflake, so the path taken is entirely up to you.
May you find some peace during this holiday and know that you are not alone.