MENTAL HEALTH

How to cope with grief during the holidays

 (Antonius_)

It's that time of year again—the holidays. Lights, gifts, celebrations, and parties surround us, filling many people with warmth and joy. Yet, there are many people who are grieving the loss of a loved one at this time of year.

More: 5 Signs You're Headed for a Holiday Breakdown

The holiday season, which should be filled with comfort and joy, is instead shadowed by sadness and pain. How do we get through the holidays when our hearts are heavy, and our feelings of grief and loss seem to overwhelm us? Here are some suggestions for making the season bearable, lighter, and even joyous.

Spend some time alone

Reminisce. Remember the times that you had together. Consider writing a letter to your loved one, or start to write a journal. A quiet, contemplative activity such as reading or coloring (pick up my new coloring book, Colors of Loss and Healing), can be calming and healing. Go for a walk. Listen to music. Do not try to run from feelings of sadness; give yourself time to mourn.

It is also important to spend time with family and friends

This can be particularly challenging for the grieving person, but it is very important to engage socially with others. Accept invitations to be with others. Participate in that family dinner. Drive yourself so that you can make a graceful exit if you feel that you need to leave. Pat yourself on the back for at least trying to get out a bit. These are all the little steps back into life that each grieving person must try to do.

Keep your stress to a minimum

If you don't have the energy to decorate your house or cook for the entire family, know that it's perfectly fine to modify your efforts. Grieving is exhausting, and taking care of yourself should be a priority. Modifying and scaling back makes good sense. 

More: 8 Ways You Can Manage Stress Right Now

Surround yourself with kind and compassionate people

Grief is an injury, and you want to be with people who understand that you are going through a difficult time. It can be very helpful to join a grief support group at this time which can provide you with emotional support. Grief counseling on an individual basis can also be very helpful.

Create a new ritual in memory of your loved one

This can be as simple as lighting a memorial candle in your home, or can involve participating in a charitable event in honor of your loved one. Some families volunteer to serve dinners to the homeless, others collect needed items for families in need. Whatever you decide, find the time to give back.  It is very healing both for yourself and for others.

More: 12 Simple Ways to Spread Love This Season

Above all, have faith in yourself that you can get through these difficult times

The human heart has a great capacity to heal, and know that you, too, will move forward in your life, sustained by love and memory.

This article originally appeared on RodaleWellness.com.