how to survive christmas holiday grief

The Christmas season can prove particularly difficult to someone mourning the death of a loved one. Not only are the sights, sounds and smells of the holiday all around us and nearly impossible to avoid, but the traditions, rituals, and gatherings we often associate with the holiday season also tend to emphasize the fact that a beloved family member or friend is no longer with us, compounding our feelings of loss.

This article offers five tips to help you cope with the Christmas holiday season if you’re grieving the death of a loved one.

The pressure the bereaved feel to act a certain way when mourning a death adds an unfortunate and unnecessary burden to those grieving a loss at any time, but this is particularly true during the Christmas season. The joy and laughter typically associated with this holiday can create a sense that sadness and crying are out of place and might spoil the holiday for others.

If you find yourself this Christmas season feeling that you must conceal your tears or put on a brave face (or, conversely, not laugh or enjoy yourself at times), then you need to give yourself the gift of permission, i.e., tell yourself it’s okay to grieve in your own way. Despite societal pressures – real or imagined – or the misperception that people follow the same stages of grief, there simply is no correct way to mourn the loss of a loved one.

And just as death never takes a holiday, neither does grief, so you should do whatever you need to do in order to cope.

Grief is hard work and takes not only an emotional toll on those mourning a death but also a physical one. Often, the bereaved feel exhausted because of poor eating habits, a lack of exercise and/or inadequate sleep.

Unfortunately and somewhat ironically, holiday revelry often causes these same problems for people who aren’t grieving a death, which means Christmas can exacerbate these effects in the bereaved.

If that describes you, then practice some self-love during the holiday by paying attention to your physical needs. If you plan to attend a holiday party, tell the host or hostess ahead of time that you might leave early if you feel tired and need some sleep (and make sure you drive separately so you can depart whenever you wish). Instead of binging at the holiday buffet, practice these six ways to eat healthy during the holidays. And even moderate exercise will help you sleep better and lower your stress level, so make sure you take your dog for a walk or ask a friend to stroll with you in the park or a local mall.