How to handle grief during the holidays

NOW: How to handle grief during the holidays

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. – Holidays are usually the time when family and friends come together to celebrate. But what if you’re missing a loved one? Celebrating might be the last thing on your mind?

If you’re going through the holidays without a loved one this year. First off, know that you are not alone. And that there is no time frame with grief.

“You need to allow time to grieve and be sad, and at the same time, you have to kind of know when to distract yourself from that,” Tina Weldy, a licensed mental health counselor said.

Weldy said if you’re grieving, it’s important to recognize your feelings. Whether you’ve lost someone close and dear to your heart this past year, or even five years ago. The feeling of grief never really goes away. During the holidays, that feeling can be amplified. Sometimes you get over one emotion, only to experience another one.

Weldy said you should allow yourself that space to experience all the emotions you’re going through without judgment.

“Sometimes we think that by pushing the feelings away, that will make it less. And what we find out is it's there. And it's harder to deal with because we’re not facing it,” Weldy said.

These past two years, many people lost loved ones to COVID-19, and many are spending this holiday season with an empty chair at the table for the first time. So, how do you celebrate the holidays and cope with your grief?

Weldy mentions to help cope with grief, visit a gravesite, create a sacred space at home and light a candle for the person you are grieving, or spend some time reflecting on memories, and most importantly allowing yourself to feel. Another helpful technique can be as simple as writing a letter.

“The act of writing, and saying anything we want to say and not having to hold back, and nobody’s feeling is going to be hurt. And so nobody is going to be overwhelmed by what I write in this letter,” Weldy said.

If a grieving loved one comes to you, Weldy says the best thing you can do is just sit in silence and listen to what they have to say.

“Sometimes that’s more meaningful and healing than those things we try to say because we really don’t have the words,” Weldy said.

Everyone handles grief differently. But, how can you bring a little bit of cheer and relief to someone who recently lost a loved one this holiday season?

Smothering them, may not be what they need at the moment. Instead, lending an ear can go a long way, said Weldy.

She also mentions showing support in a gesture can be helpful and make a difference. Instead of asking if they need help, say “I’m coming over and doing this,” or bake them cookies or buy them lunch. Saying something and acknowledging their pain and emotions can also be helpful.

“We worry if we bring it up. It will cause the person to think about their loved one. And the fact is, they’re thinking about them. So, I think being less afraid to bring it up and saying, I’m thinking about your daughter right now and I’m wondering how you’re doing,” Weldy said.

If you are having feelings of anxiousness, depression, or grief getting in contact with a therapist could help.

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