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An Open Letter To Anyone Grieving This Holiday Season

Grief is a thing we all struggle with at one point or another in our life, and it is especially hard to deal with around the holiday season; stores are broadcasting their bright and cheery holiday decorations, holiday music is played almost everywhere, and everyone tries to spread “peace and joy on earth.” If you’re experiencing grief during this time, you may want to burrow yourself under your covers on your bed and not come out until New Year’s is over. This, sadly, is not possible for most people- here are a few tips on how to understand and deal with your grief and sadness during this hard time.

First, you must allow yourself time to actually grieve. Compartmentalization is something we all struggle with when going through periods of grief; we don’t want to feel the pain, so we shove it into a box in our inner psyche and try to forget about it. This, however, won’t help you actually go through your grief, and you won’t really find any peace unless you let yourself feel. Cry, get angry, curse God, if you believe in Him or whomever- do anything but be apathetic. Apathy won’t get you anywhere.

You must also give yourself slack. Don’t force yourself to do things you don’t want to or think you can do in the name of ‘facing your grief.’ This will not help you. If you’re in school, and need to ask to do a separate project from the ones your classmates are doing, do so. Explain to your teachers your situation; they’ll at the least feel sympathetic, and may possibly understand what you’re going through. If you want to stay home one day and not talk to anyone, allow yourself to. Grief is a very tricky thing, and it can hit you at the worst and strangest times. If you need to excuse yourself from a meeting, or a class, or a conversation, because it is hurting you, do so. You don’t need to justify your grief to anyone; one thing that ‘seems’ like it may set you off may not, while something so miniscule it’s considered ‘foolish’ to set you off, will. If you can’t watch a certain holiday movie, don’t. If you don’t want to go to a friend’s holiday party or dinner, or if you don’t want to celebrate the holidays at all, don’t! You’re the only one who truly knows you, and knows how different things can impact and effect you; if you know you won’t be able to do something, don’t do it. You don’t owe it to anyone, but you owe yourself time to heal; don’t push yourself, as we all heal at different rates and in different ways.

Do not try to explain or justify your grief to anyone either. This is succeeding the previous tip, but the truth is, grief is a walk down a dark, meandering hallway. You never truly know what will cause you to cry or what you’ll be impervious to, and something that you were completely apathetic to one day could be reason for a cry the next. You could be okay one minute, sobbing the next, and then okay in the same breath. If you force yourself to do things because you believe you have an obligation to do so, you will end up burning yourself out. If you cannot go to a holiday party your friend is throwing, you are not required to explain to them why, and sometimes, you yourself will not understand why. If your friends are ‘real friends,’ they’ll understand that you need time, and to not push you.

You also must find coping skills. This one may seem redundant, as you may think, “why wouldn’t I have found coping skills by now?” but it is still salient. The holidays can be exponentially worse than a ‘normal’ day (though, any day after a loved one passes away does not seem normal in any sense of the word), as the concept of family and cheer is forced upon everyone as a means to sell more holiday gifts and decorations. If you believe in God, and believe that this is all God’s plan, then you may want to fall back on that. If you have a certain song or movie that you watch whenever your stressed, you may want to make sure you have that on hand. If you have a certain drink you love, or a food, you may want to stock up on those. Of course, it is not recommended or implied here that you should pick up unhealthy coping mechanisms, and if you’re using alcohol or drugs to avoid confronting your grief, you may want to reevaluate what helps you cope. However, healthy coping habits will help you through the holidays and possibly even improve the month.

Finally, you may want to hire a therapist. As the holidays are very painful and stressful for people experiencing grief, it may be wise to hire a therapist to help you talk through what you are experiencing. There are many therapists that specify in grief counseling and will be willing to help you, as well as therapists who specify in the loss of a child or a significant other. It is imperative to remember that if you do decide to hire a therapist or a counselor, you are not weak; you are very strong for admitting that you need help and seeking it out. You do not need to suffer in silence, or think that you’re alone in how you’re feeling. It is perfectly okay and valid for you to desire or seek out counseling.

The holiday season is always hard and stressful for a various array of reasons, but when dealing with grief, it can feel a hundred times worse. Above all, it is important to remember to take care of yourself, be kind to yourself, and allow yourself the time you need to heal and cope. The significance of your health and taking care of yourself is much more important than any grade, test, or party you ‘have’ to do or go to. Please remember, that you will not feel such pain forever; there will come a time, however distant it may be, that you can watch certain movies and not cry, and hear holiday music and feel happiness. If you do feel a semblance of joy this holiday season, do not beat yourself up over it. It can be easy to feel guilty for feeling excited about certain things when a loved one has passed away, but you are allowed to feel excitement and joy. You are allowed to feel everything you feel, and whatever emotions you do feel during the holiday season are normal and justifiable.

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