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Posts Tagged ‘grief’

Child in Santa hat looking out the window on a rainy day
Child in Santa hat looking out the window on a rainy day

It’s December and the holiday season is in full swing. For many, the holidays are a time of joy and excitement, but for others, the holidays are filled with sorrow and grief. While many of us look forward to get-togethers and celebrations with family and friends, others may dread these occasions because they are reminded of the losses they have experienced.

When we talk about loss and grief, most people think of the loss of a loved one, which is certainly a common reason for grief. However, there are many reasons people may feel loss or grief. I teach Successful Co-Parenting and we explain how going through a divorce may cause similar feelings due to the loss of all the things/ideas/plans/people the couple had together that are not going to happen now. When someone retires, they may have mixed emotions of happiness that they have more time to do the things they want and/or sorrow about feeling that they have no purpose or meaning anymore. With all the weather issues of the past couple years and with fluctuating commodity prices, many farmers/farm families have been forced to give up their way of life. Some have had to sell their farms and/or animals in order to survive the uncertainty that mother nature and the future brings. Loss of a job or unemployment can also trigger feelings of grief.

flooded farm field
Flooded farm field

According to the HelpGuide article, Coping with Grief and Loss, grief is a natural response to loss. It’s the emotional suffering you feel when something or someone you love is taken away. Often, the pain of loss can feel overwhelming. You may experience all kinds of difficult and unexpected emotions, from shock or anger to disbelief, guilt, and profound sadness. The pain of grief can also disrupt your physical health, making it difficult to sleep, eat, or even think straight. These are normal reactions to loss—and the more significant the loss, the more intense your grief will be.

So, as we go through the holiday season and beyond, it’s important that we recognize and understand that grief and the grieving process looks different for everyone. Here are some tips from AARP for dealing with grief during the holidays:

  1. Only do what feels right– decide which activities, traditions or events you can handle.
  2. Accept your feelings, whatever they might be– however you feel, accept it. And accept the inevitable ups and downs.
  3. Call on your family and friends– be honest about how you’d like to do things this year — if you want to talk about those who have passed, then do so, and let others know it’s OK.
  4. Focus on the kids– many holidays place special attention on children, and it often helps to focus on their needs.
  5. Plan ahead– create comforting activities in the weeks approaching a holiday so that you have something to look forward to rather than building up a dread of the pain the holiday could bring.
  6. Scale back– if the thought of many holiday activities feels painful, overwhelming or inappropriate this year, cutting back may help.
  7. Give– it’s amazing how in times of grief, sometimes the biggest comfort is to give to others.
  8. Acknowledge those who have passed on– when we are grieving a loss of someone very close to us, it can be helpful to participate in a related holiday ritual in his or her memory.
  9. Do something different– acknowledge that things have changed; indeed, the holiday will not be the same as it was ever again.
  10. Skip it– if you feel that it will be too much for you and you’d like to simply opt out of participation in a holiday, let family and friends know.

By using some of these tips, hopefully the holidays don’t have to be a time of sorrow and grief. If you or someone you love exhibits any of the following symptoms, seeking professional help is advised:

  1. Feel like life isn’t worth living.
  2. Wish you had died with your loved one.
  3. Blame yourself for the loss or for failing to prevent it.
  4. Feel numb and disconnected from others for more than a few weeks.
  5. Are having difficulty trusting others since your loss.
  6. Are unable to perform your normal daily activities.

Here’s hoping that you can find some joy and comfort over the holidays and in to the new year!

Writer: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Perry County, harmon.416@osu.edu

Reviewer: Amanda Bohlen, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension, Washington County, bohlen.19@osu.edu

Sources:

Curiel, Ashley. (2016). The Least Wonderful Time of the Year? Good Therapy. Retrieved from: https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/holidays-least-wonderful-time-of-year-1216164

Goyer, Amy. (2012). Dealing With Grief During the Holiday Season. AARP. Retrieved from: https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-12-2012/death-loss-christmas-holidays-goyer.html

Pappas, Stephanie. (2019). Unique pressures put America’s farmers under stress. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/farmers-under-stress

Smith, M., Segal, J., and Robinson, L. (2019). Job Loss and Unemployment Stress. HelpGuide. Retrieved from: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/job-loss-and-unemployment-stress.htm

Smith, M., Segal, J., and Robinson, L. (2019). Coping with Grief and Loss. HelpGuide. Retrieved from: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/grief/coping-with-grief-and-loss.htm

Photos:

https://pixabay.com/photos/rainy-christmas-grief-child-kid-83136/

https://pixabay.com/photos/arable-field-flood-wet-ground-406153/

https://pixabay.com/photos/pants-bag-list-wrench-job-search-1255851/

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Holidays seem like they should be a joyful time, but when you’ve experienced a loss, the grief can make you painfully aware of the sharp contrast between how you feel and what the holidays ‘should’ bring. These tips may help you get through a difficult time.

  1. Only do what is doable. Holiday time tends to be busier than usual and it’s easy to overload your calendar. This can leave you feeling tired and burned out. It’s up to you to decide which activities you will participate in. It’s okay to say no.
  2. Accept your feelings. The way we experience and express grief is different for everyone. There is no timeline or ‘normal’ path through grief. Holidays can intensify grief because we tend to make a lot of memories with our loved ones at celebrations. Some people feel guilty when they have period of joy. Whatever your feelings, accept them as they come with each up and down.
  3. Ask for help. Reach out to family or close friends who can lighten your load. Maybe they could run an errand for you, or maybe you just need someone to listen to you.
  4. Plan ahead. A little planning can save you time, money and hassle. Combine some errands. Save some time for yourself in all the planning. Create some comforting rituals that help you take care of yourself.
  5. Scale back. Simplify your giving. Cut your Christmas card list in half. Don’t bake quite as much. Put up fewer decorations. There are many ways to simplify at holiday time.
  6. Give. Consider giving to a charity in memory of your loved one. Volunteer to serve others for a cause that honors your loved one. Making a positive difference in someone else’s life can be brighten our spirits as well.memory
  7. Acknowledge those who have passed on. It can help with healing to honor the memory of loved ones in a special way during the holidays. Perhaps you can light a candle in their honor or share stories about them.
  8. Do something different. Sometimes traditions and rituals help us remember special times with loved ones. Other times it may be more painful to experience the tradition without a loved one. This might be just the year to start a new tradition. You could go to a different location to celebrate, maybe even a good time to get away for a bit. Do what seems right for you this year.

References:

Goyer, A. “Dealing with Grief During the Holiday Season: 10 things to help get you through this difficult time. AARP. Dec. 2012.

Alvord, M., Fu, M. & Palmiter, D. “Making the most of the holiday season.” American Psychological Association. Nov. 2016.

Written by: Shannon Carter, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Fairfield County

Reviewed by: Jami Dellifield, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Sciences, Ohio State University Extension, Hardin County

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