By Rachel Painter LPC

When we picture the holiday season, we may think of carefully curated family photos and traditions with the ones we love the most involving hot chocolate, holiday lights, and baking. Typically this season evokes feelings of kindness, generosity, and joy. But when the person you want to spend the holiday with is not physically present, how we once pictured the holiday season drastically changes. Individuals are left feeling lonely and isolated because their holiday season is no longer characterized by joy, but grief.

Grief is particularly hard to navigate because the narrative we had once built around our future suddenly looks a lot different. This can leave people feeling lonely, disoriented, and apathetic towards the things they once enjoyed. Feelings of grief can arise from various circumstances. Maybe it’s the loss of someone we love to cancer or old age. Perhaps it’s due to infertility and the loss of what could have been. Or perhaps it’s the loss of a relationship due to estrangement or a breakup. Regardless, there doesn’t have to be a death for someone to be grieving. Whether there was a death or a loss in some other form, one for sure thing is that grief can be exponentially more difficult to cope with during the holidays. Two things come to mind when coping with grief during the holidays: mindful self-compassion and valuable internal and external supports. While you can not hasten the grieving
process, you can surround yourself with supports. There is no correct way to grieve, each individual has their own unique needs. By mindfully exploring those needs, one can support their healing process. While this may not take the pain of grieving away, it can significantly reduce one’s suffering.

Internal Supports & Mindful Self-Compassion:
Cultivate a compassionate inner monologue that does it’s best to no compare your process to others. Limit criticizing yourself about where you “should” be or how you “should” feel. Welcome all of your feelings. You’re allowed to feel however you feel during this season, whether that’s lonely, angry, resentful, sad, or anxious. Observe, describe, and validate these feelings. Trust yourself. You best know what you need during this time. You have your own natural feelings about what you need to support you. It’s ok to rest and slow down. Celebrate the holiday in a way that you’d like, even if that way doesn’t meet the expectations of years past.

External Supports: 
Schedule down-time. The holidays are full of social obligations and demands. Busyness can cause us to power through our emotions. Therefore, it’s vital that you make time to check in with how you’re feeling. The stress related to grief can make us more vulnerable to illness around the holidays. Incorporated practices that build physical resilience. This includes activities such as physical activities or practices that offer physical relaxation. Support from someone who understands what you have experienced can be valuable. Find ways to express how you feel mindfully. This can be done with a close person, support group, or in a

Plan ahead. Ask yourself, how do you want to celebrate the holidays this year? What would be most supportive to you? How do you want to remember your special person? There is no right or wrong way to celebrate, planning ahead can help support you in celebrating in the way you’d like.