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Managing Your Grief and the Holidays

Michaele Potvin, LCSW | 12/26/2017 2:43:23 PM

The holiday season brings with it a mix of emotions ranging between joy and elation to stressed out. Wherever you land on the spectrum of holiday emotions, it is safe to say it can be an emotional time of year. There are those among us for whom this time of year brings sadness and can intensify grief. For those who have experienced the loss of a loved one, or loss of an important relationship, the holidays can be a painful reminder of happier times.

Someone who is grieving may struggle with memories of celebrations with loved ones, shared traditions, or get stuck in what once was. It’s important to remember — grief is not limited to death. Grief is a normal reaction to loss. It can be the loss of a significant relationship such as in divorce or a break up, a change in a person’s health, or financial status due to a job loss.

For those whose loved one may be grieving there are things you can do to support the person you care for as they go through the process:
  • Invite them to gatherings and activities. Do not avoid your loved one; they need support although they may not always accept it.
  • Be kind to those you love who are grieving. Grief has many faces and is not a linear process of consecutive stages. The stages of grieving are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Some days may be days where your loved one is happy, smiling, and engaged and other days may be messy and difficult. Allow them the space to be however they are.       
  • Acknowledge the people you care for by inquiring on how they are doing, what they have been up to, or what is next for them.  One of the most common things I hear people who have experienced loss say is, they feel as though the people they knew and spent time with no longer know what to do or say when they see them.
For those who may be grieving:
  • It may be appropriate to create new traditions or evaluate the ones you have. 
  • If you are grieving a death, create new ways in which to involve the person who has passed. Such as light a candle in remembrance, set out a picture, donate to a charity in their name, or engage in story telling with others about positive memories. Pinterest can be a wonderful resource. Also, different religions or cultures may have traditions which work for you.
  • Stay connected! Accept invitations to be with others or invite friends and family to activities. If the time comes to do the activity be kind to yourself and know that it is okay to cancel plans sometimes if you’re not up for it.  
  • Remember it is okay to say no! There may be requests or expectations that are beyond what you can handle at this point in your life. You can say no. You do not have to offer excuses or apologize.
When is it time to get professional help? While it is always better to get help sooner rather than later, at some point most individuals will be engage more fully in life, establish new routines, and focus on the future. Signs a person could use extra support are when grief has continued a year or more, and there is the presence of:
  • Extreme emotional reactivity to reminders
  • Lack of enjoyment or pleasure
  • Anxiety or avoidance of reminders
  • Prolonged disengagement from others
  • An avoidance of moving toward the future while developing new connections
If you or a loved one is grieving, there is support! There are books, support groups, and there is an extensive professional support network in the Bangor area.

Most of all remember; anyone can be a fighting a battle you know nothing about. During this season of love and giving be kind to yourself and others and give yourself permission to be you.

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