• COME Outreach

Don't Let the Holidays Get You Down

Holiday Stress

The holiday season is thought to be a time for family gathering, having a wonderful time and sharing traditions. The media bombards us with advertisements of the perfect gift that would bring joy, happiness and expression of love. The commercials portray the season with people singing, dancing, fulfilled expectations, and a sense of happiness all around us. But for family caregivers who may have lost a loved one, the holidays can be a time of stress, sadness, pain, anger, or dread.

If you have lost a loved one, you might be wondering how to cope with your grief this holiday season. This may be the first holiday with out your loved one. The holidays can be a painful reminder of our losses. It brings back memories and thoughts of the good times we spent with our loved one and that they are not here to spend it with us. While everyone else is looking forward to the holidays you may find yourself dreading it.

As Wayne A. Kampen from the Bethesda PsycHealth Reporter wrote "Somehow (during the holidays) persons feel pushed into hiding, covering over, or denying the reality of sadness, fear and tension. Perhaps what is needed most is simply a more honest embracing of ourselves, others, and the realities of life." Be easy on yourself, especially if you recently lost a loved one. If you do not feel like celebrating, don't!

There are some strategies to help you cope during the holidays and beyond:

Offer Yourself Some Grace. The best thing you can do this holiday season is be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is your feeling. Don't fall prey to the belief that you have to feel a certain way or do certain things for your holiday to be "normal." If you feel sad, allow the tears to come; if you feel angry, allow yourself to vent some steam.

Be Kind to Yourself. Get the rest and nourishment you need. Don't take on any more than you can handle. If you need to be alone, honor that. If you crave the company and affection of others, seek it out. Do whatever it is that feels right to you.

Ask For and Accept Help. The holiday season is no time to fake strength and independence. You will need the help and support of others to get through. Don't feel as though you are a burden. People get enormous satisfaction and joy from helping those they care about. Friends and family may feel uncomfortable when it comes to talking about your grief. They may think that you don't want to talk about it and don't want to remind you of your pain. Again, you will have to direct them in the best way to help you. If you want to talk about what you're going through or just want a shoulder to cry on, let them know.

Find Support. Sharing your feelings is the best way to get through them. You need people you can talk to. Friends and relatives can be a great support to us during times of grief, but they are sometimes full of their own grief or so immersed in the business of the holidays that they cannot be a support to you. Support groups for caregivers and the bereaved are plentiful during the holiday season. Check with local churches, community centers, and hospice agencies to find a group that suite you. Support group members often make friends that end up being a source of support for years to come.

Make a Difference. Most of us like to help others during the holiday season. Taking the ornament off the tree at the mall, dropping our change in the charity basket, or donating to our favorite organization can help us feel like we are contributing to a greater good. Helping others in times of grief can help take the focus off yourself and your pain. Volunteering at a nursing home, hospital, children's shelter, or soup kitchen can be healing in times of pain. Even helping a friend or family member in need can be healing.

Stop the Comparisons. It's easy to watch other families and compare them to your own. Seeing other families together and enjoying the festivities may make you feel deprived. Keep in mind that the holidays are stressful for most families and are rarely the magical gatherings depicted in greeting cards. Try to embrace what you have rather than compare it to what you think others have.

Remember That You Will Survive. As hard as it is for you right now, you will survive. You will make it through the holidays in one piece. It may be the most difficult season in your time of grief, but it will pass. And when it does, you will come out on the other side stronger than before. You don't have to enjoy the holidays. You don't even have to go through the motions pretending to enjoy the festivities. But, it's also just fine to have a good time in spite of your grief. If happiness slips through your window of grief, allow it to happen and enjoy it. You won't be doing your loved one an injustice by feeling joyous. The best gift you can give anyone you love, even someone you have lost, is being true to yourself and living your life to the fullest.

Let us embrace the Peace, which passes all understanding. Joy that gives us strength. It is though the most difficult times in our lives we come to realize how strong we really are. Let us remember the True Reason we celebrate the Season. We at C.O.M.E. wish you and your family a Merry Christmas. Be Blessed and Be a Blessing.

Contact us with your questions or to schedule a Caregivers Workshop or to set up support group sessions at your organization. Nominate family caregivers for the 2020 Leon David Simmons Gala on November 21, 2020. Visit us on the web at www.comeoutreach.org or e-mail us at info@comeoutreach.org




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