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Grief and The Holidays

Grief and Holiday Stress - 21st Century EAP

The holidays can be an especially difficult time particularly after the loss of a loved one. It is normal to experience a whirlwind of emotions (sadness, joy, anger, guilt, etc.) while grieving. Things that you once enjoyed may now be the source of sadness and grief. If this is your first year without a loved one, this holiday season may be especially difficult. For some, our first instinct might be to pretend that everything is the same and to move forward with holiday traditions as if nothing changed. Others may want to avoid the holidays and traditions altogether in order to avoid painful reminders of loved ones. Even if your loss happened many years ago, you may still experience sadness this time of year. Grief is a process, not an event, and everyone’s timeline is different.

Here are a few suggestions that may help.

Allow yourself time to grieve.

Talk to friends or family members before your holiday gatherings to let them know that you may need to step away or may need their support. Be honest with others about what you need. If you need to, take a moment away from the holiday festivities to allow yourself time to experience your emotions alone.

Set boundaries and realistic expectations with yourself. It’s okay if you are not up for the same activities and responsibilities you may have had in years past. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or accept others’ offers to help. Do only what feels best for you and your family. It doesn’t matter what others think you should or shouldn’t do. Do only what you are able to do.

Engage in positive self-care activities.

Make sure you are getting enough sleep, eating properly, staying hydrated and exercising.  Avoid the temptation to self-medicate with food, alcohol, drugs or even excessive shopping/spending. Grief, coupled with holiday stress, can be depleting.

Children grieve differently than adults.

They may feel guilty about looking forward to the holidays. They may be afraid to ask questions or talk about what is bothering them. Children sometimes act out their feelings because they don’t know how to express what they are feeling. Be aware of changes in children and help them by starting the conversation.  Labeling feelings for them will allow them to see it is okay to hurt and struggle with emotions and that they don’t have to hide their feelings.

Try finding ways to honor the memory of your loved ones. These are a few ideas:

  • Light a candle in memory of your loved one
  • Make your loved one’s favorite holiday food
  • Add an ornament to the tree in their honor
  • Have a moment of silence to honor your loved one
  • Start a new tradition in their honor: (i.e. volunteer to serve a holiday meal at a local shelter)

Above all, be honest with yourself: the holidays this year will be different. You can enjoy the time with family and friends and miss your loved one.


Additional resources: https://whatsyourgrief.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/WYGbooklet_v3.pdf

If you need additional support, we can help. Contact 21st Century EAP at 1-800-825-5327 or submit a service request in the Members Area of our website:

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21st Century EAP

Providing EAP services in the Allegheny County and Greater Pittsburgh region for over 15 years.

Innovative Solutions for Progressive Organizations

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300 Oxford Drive, Suite 110, Monroeville, PA 15146