Grieving during the Holiday Season
And some tips about what you can do to gently support yourself.
People grieve in different ways, we naturally process emotions in our own way; and the holiday season can be a difficult time for people, who are dealing with the loss of a significant person in their lives, or the loss of other significant events in our lives; families, connection, homes, jobs, countries.
We can also experience grief, even when the situation which prompts it was chosen, like relocating to another state or country, having children and dealing with the impact of the changes which becoming parents has on your relationship.
Many people cry but others do not. Some people want to talk to others about how they are feeling, and others want to deal with it in their private and quiet way.
Differences in the way people grieve can reflect different personality styles, coping strategies, personal philosophical and spiritual beliefs, and also the relationship with the person who has died, along with the level of support available to the person, previous life experiences and numerous other factors.
For some people the grieving process may last for months, for others it may be years. It can never be predicted how long the person will grieve. The grieving process is considered self-limiting, that is, the grieving will end when it draws to a natural conclusion; and often, is a process, often re-visited over time.
Early signs of grieving include sadness, anxiety, guilt, anger, and helplessness. There may also be physical symptoms such as tightness in the chest or throat, nausea, heart palpitations, dizziness, loss of appetite, insomnia, or lethargy and sleeping too much. Some people may withdraw socially or alternatively engage in high levels of activity. All of these feelings and behaviours are considered normal.
There are several things that you, your friends and your family can do to help with the grieving process.
The following are a few strategies that have been shown to be helpful:
Talk about how you feel: It can be very helpful to speak with at least one person, and to and share feelings with them about the loss. People need to feel that they have someone who understands and from whom they can get comfort. For some people this may be a family member or a close friend. Other people find support groups helpful, other people find talking with a neutral independent professional counsellor beneficial, remember to find what works for you and connect in with this resource.
Talk about the person: Remembering the person who has died and talking about them – the retelling of their story or events in the person’s life can help to deal with the emotional reactions of the loss, remembering their connection with you, can be a source of comfort, amongst the necessary pain of the loss.
Write a journal of experiences and feelings: Writing can be a valuable way of connecting in with the emotional responses in ‘your body’ and expressing the feelings; assists in processing our emotional responses. A journal may include personal thoughts about the loss that cannot be easily shared with others, memories of the person, or letters to the person who has died.
Creative Expression: Working with art, from finger painting to more sophisticated and stylized art, and everything in between, has been shown to have a remarkable impact on allowing emotions to be what they are, without judgement.
“Show up for yourself and your emotions”: is a phrase I often use with clients who are grieving, and some of my own medicine, I am able to take, as I navigate the sudden loss of both my parents recently.
Maintain a routine: Try to keep a normal daily routine going, even if you feel Be kind to yourself: Be patient with yourself. Accept that some days will be better than others and that it is alright to stop, to be distracted, to do what you need to do to get through the emotionally difficult days.
Avoid using alcohol: Alcohol may numb the pain in the short-term but in the long term, we know that this impacts liver functioning, and this can have a depressive effect on energy levels and functioning in the body.
When to get professional help that you are just going through the motions.
People sometimes get so caught up in grief that it becomes all encompassing. Some people develop prolonged physical symptoms such as insomnia, lack of energy and stomach complaints. If you feel that you, (or someone you know), are not coping well with the loss of someone close, a psychologist may be able to help to develop better coping resources.
Here at Vision Psychology and M1 Psychology we are committed to supporting our community all year round.
We do not clock off for long holidays, as we understand that life is continuous, and not a 9- 5 process, and as a result we have dedicated and committed team of professionals available to support you during all holiday periods.
If you are wanting to access personal support to assist you with grief during this or any other period, please call our offices to discuss which of our team would be a good fit for you and book in.
We wish you a happy and safe holiday season, whatever your specific orientation, all are welcome, as part of our human family.
Author: Sharon Hulin, BA (Double Hons), MA (Psych), MaPPi, ANZMH.
Sharon Hulin is a Brisbane Psychologist with a keen interest in working with individuals who feel they would like to develop in the area of personal boundaries. With a solid grounding in academic training and scientifically researched best practice models of care, and many years of experience, Sharon provides support and guidance to help you clarify, heal, understand and integrate.
To make an appointment try Online Booking. Alternatively, you can call M1 Psychology Brisbane on (07) 3067 9129.