Grief and the Holidays

Festive decorations, twinkling lights, melting candles, family, friends.  The holidays can be a joyous time for many.  It is a time of reflection and a time of looking ahead.  It adds fresh excitement and fun, but also stress and reminders.  While many reminders can be happy, there is also a big sense of nostalgia during the holidays.  This nostalgia can be difficult for many to cope with, but even more difficult if you have recently lost someone you love, someone who was always a part of your holiday celebrations. 

Grief is a funny thing, not haha funny, more like punch in the gut funny.  You can feel like you have a handle on things; that everything is under control, and then something happens to trigger it again and boom, you’re in tears.  While over time grief does get easier, at the holidays it can become a bit more raw and harder to deal with.  Add to that, that most holiday songs are in minor keys and about times gone by, and it’s a recipe for disaster.  There are things you can do to help you cope and still enjoy the holiday season, despite your loved one not being there. 

1.       Don’t’ be afraid to remember.  Remembering can be difficult, especially when we are grieving.  It can be tempting to run from things that remind us of who is missing.  Memories have a way of making the loss feel unbearable; it is in letting ourselves remember that we can honor our loved one and help ourselves to heal.  It can be family remembering all together, or it can be in a journal all by yourself. 

2.       Don’t fear old traditions, but feel free to create new ones.  When we lose someone, usually our biggest thought is that nothing will be the same.  By keeping old traditions, we can remember the person we lost, and also still have the celebration we have always had.  It may mean changing the old tradition slightly.  Perhaps grandma is gone and she used to always make pumpkin pie, well, maybe someone can make her recipe.  Of course it is never going to taste the same as though grandma made it, but you can have the tradition and the memory still intact.  If keeping an old tradition isn’t possible or is too painful, perhaps you can create a new one.  If mom always cooked, well maybe this year, it can be potluck style and that can be a new tradition. 

3.       Don’t run from your feelings.  Grief is hard, especially at what for so many is a happy time of year.  Sit in your feelings and don’t run from them.  When we stuff our feelings, is when we make ourselves sick and end up with anxiety and panic attacks.  Crying isn’t fun, pain isn’t fun.  It’s human to want to run from these.  Find time though to sit in the moment and just feel.  Allow yourself to acknowledge your feelings.  The only way out is through, the longer we stuff our feelings, the harder we make the grieving process on ourselves.

4.       Take care of yourself…and othersIn the crazy business of the holiday season, it can be tempting to just throw ourselves into the business with full abandon.  When we are busy, we don’t give ourselves time to think and feel, we stuff everything and keep moving.  Be sure you don’t over book yourself.  When you are grieving, self-care is even more important than usual.  Take time out to color for a few minutes, take a walk on the beach, drive around and look at decorations, take your dog to the dog park, go on a trail ride, talk to your counselor or do whatever you do that makes you feel in the moment and rested.  It can also be helpful to do unto others.  You can buy gifts for the less fortunate, volunteer at a homeless shelter or even volunteer at an animal shelter.  In helping others, we get the focus off of ourselves and it helps us to realize that we can go on. 

5.       Find a grief support groupMeeting others who are struggling with a loss can be a helpful thing.  It can help normalize some pretty big emotions and feelings.  A support group is not a pity party, its strong people struggling with a loss, going to a safe place to support others struggling with similar losses.  Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign that you understand your own limits and are doing something that is good for you to help you. 

Grieving can make us feel weak.  We have a false association that the expression of feelings and emotions is a show of weakness, but it takes a lot of strength to allow ourselves to feel.  It takes a tremendous amount of courage to allow ourselves to be vulnerable.  In allowing ourselves to feel and be vulnerable is where we find our healing.  Whether your loss is recent, or happened a while ago, know that you aren’t alone. 

Love is in the Air

Love is in the Air

 

With the holiday season comes wedding and engagement season. When you first get engaged there is nothing but excitement. You can’t wait to tell everyone you know and start the planning because that is the fun part, right? But as soon as you find out all the small details you are now in charge of, you start getting overwhelmed. Everyone knows that planning a wedding can be a very stressful time; but there are some easy ways to control your stress levels.

·         Talk with your partner. Calm the wedding jitters by taking some time to speak to your partner in the beginning stages about your future marital life. What do you expect from each other as spouses? Will you be joining bank accounts? Will you be having children? What boundaries will you set with friends and family in your first year of marriage? If you go into planning knowing you and your partner are on the same page, it is more likely that you will rely on them to help you de-stress.

·         Know yourself and how you operate. If you are the type of person who must do everything yourself, make sure you pick a date that will allow you the time you need to complete everything. Do-it-yourself weddings are cheaper but will take up more time.

·         Your timeline is the most important thing to follow. Make sure that you create a realistic timeline and build in time to take breaks from planning as it is a full-time job. Get as much as you can done early on when you are still in the excitement phase. This will reduce the risk of becoming a “bridezilla” in the last month or two before the big day. The last two months you should be relaxing as much as possible as you will most likely be fielding calls from future guests.

·         Be flexible throughout the process. Know that everyone will want to ask questions and know all the details. Decide beforehand who needs to know what. Don’t be afraid to say ‘No’ to others’ ideas; they don’t know your budget or overall vision. Your budget will most likely control the decisions you have to make, so stick to it to reduce stress.

·         Rely on your partner. They will know when your stress levels are too high. Ask them to let you know when it is time to take a break and do something fun together. This will remind you why you are doing all of this in the first place, and will refresh your excitement.

It's All Relative

It's that time of year again. The holidays arrive the same time every year so why should we be surprised? With the blink of an eye the days and months turn into years. As holidays approach and time passes, people can become impatient with family, friends, and coworkers as well as strangers.  Tensions rise, anxieties increase, traffic becomes challenging and of course our favorite, family time. Family gatherings, family outings, family photo shoots, family group text messages and emails, family dinners, and the dreaded introductions of family members to a significant other.
 
Family gatherings are meant to be happy and joyful. However, at times we are on family/emotional overload. Before reaching emotional overload, remember the following:
-It's OK to set time limits with social events.
-It's OK to have an escape plan.
-It's OK to say no.
-Take your own car, you don't need permission to leave early. It's fun to carpool but not     fun to be stuck waiting for the person who's had too much wine or hasn't yet had     enough.
-Take time for YOU.

We all know people who will overspend choosing what they think is the “perfect” gift when in reality the greatest gift is not the present you bring but your presence. Be kind to yourself.