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Grief at the holidays: It’s OK to not feel OK

Grief can come in many forms.

The holidays are often seen as times of cheer, but for people grieving losses, they may be filled with dread. With the lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and a flood of distressing headlines, this year may be especially difficult for many among us.

Grief can come in many forms. There may be loss of loved ones, disrupted routines, frayed relationships, job loss, fear of life never returning to “normal,” and worries about the future. These can lead to people losing a sense of self, security, and shelter.

“In this time of celebration, hope, and goodwill, there is an expectation that everybody is happy, but it’s easy to forget that it is a sad time for many people,” said Rosecrance Director of Chaplaincy Christopher Druce Jones. “For those of us who are not experiencing grief, we need to be more aware of how we can honor the people who are struggling and forgotten during the season. For those who are grieving, it takes work to recognize the holidays for what they are while realizing they aren’t the same.”

To work through grief at the holidays, Druce Jones says it is important to be honest with yourself about the feelings, and accept that special days may feel different for a while. When you are ready, reach out to a caring friend to talk about your emotional state.

In addition, be aware of your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual state. Self-care will be important through these times, so make sure to eat properly, get enough sleep, exercise, and engage in spiritual grounding practices. When you attend holiday gatherings, give yourself permission to leave early if something triggers emotions, or you need a little extra time afterward for self-care.

Last, find ways to connect with others throughout the season. This fellowship will help overcome the dangers of isolation that can pop up at this time of year. Grief counseling and support groups are excellent resources for people who want to work through the grieving process in a supportive environment. Counseling helps address the losses, while groups are good for navigating the journey through those uncomfortable “firsts” without a loved one. For people in recovery, 12 Step groups and the Rosecrance Alumni program have extra opportunities for in-person and virtual connection.

“Sometimes, the best we can do is muddle through it and look forward to a brighter 2022, but that is perfectly fine,” Druce Jones said. “If we manage today with the help of a few close friends, we can be assured that hope and joy will one day return.”

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