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Elisa Goldstein, Ph.D.Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.
A blog about mindfulness, stress-reduction, psychotherapy and mental health.

Simple Suggestions for Surviving Grief During the Holidays

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. Updated: Dec 16th 2011

griefWhile the holidays are supposed to be a time of celebration, for many of us who have lost someone close it is a time where we can't help being reminded of who isn't here. The holidays now become another touchpoint, unearthing feelings of sadness, guilt, or anger, reeling at the injustice of the world. You may be left financially challenged or at odds with other members of your family or friends. Sadness or depression may loom overhead with the thought "I don't know how I'm ever going to make it through this." Conscious and unconscious reminders seem like they're everywhere. It's pretty tough to hold all this when others are expecting you to be celebrating and cheerful. These expectations alone make you feel more depressed and like isolating more.

Here are some suggestions for surviving the holidays while grieving.

  1. Set realistic expectations - Grieving can take quite some time and everyone is on their own clock. If this is your first holiday, be kind to yourself by knowing that this holiday may be more difficult than those passed. You will likely have uncomfortable emotions and may not be very cheerful.

  2. Finding the light - See if you can notice any moments that provide a sense of comfort. Whether it's a child being pleasantly surprised by a gift, the taste of special food, a smile on your face, or simply feeling relieved when the holidays pass. These feelings will come and go, but see if you notice any moments while they are there.  

  3. Let others know - Often times other friends and family may feel the inclination to try and "cheer you up" if any sadness or uncomfortable emotions arise. Let them know that these emotions may arise and while you appreciate them trying to cheer you up, it's Ok for you to experience them.  

  4. Know your limits - Give yourself permission to leave the group of people if it's getting too overwhelming and take a time-out. Go on a walk, lie down in another room, or just remove yourself and have a good cry. These emotions need to pass through and it is Ok to take time to experience them. 

  5. Spending time with the person who passed - You may want to create some sort of ritual where you express your feelings toward the person who passed. This could be writing a letter, going to the grave, or spending time in prayer if you are spiritual or religious. You can create your own idea. 

  6. Giving - Often times being altruistic is a great way to work through grief. Maybe this year you want to volunteer somewhere like a homeless shelter or make/buy special gifts for those who are around that you care about. Try this out. 

  7. Grief support group & individual therapy - If you haven't already checked out a grief support group, this may be a good thing to investigate. Look online in your area to see if there are any around. You may also want to look into individual therapy which can also be a powerful support during this time.

Overall, treat yourself with love and kindness during this time and know that the intensity of this feeling will lessen over time. It is important to spend time reminiscing and feeling the emotions and also important to live in the present moment knowing that "this too shall pass".

Please feel free to share what has worked for you in your time of grief. Your living wisdom can be enormous support to others.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D.

Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in West Los Angeles and is author of the upcoming book The Now Effect, co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, Foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of the Mindful Solutions audio series, and the Mindfulness at Work program currently being adopted in multiple multinational corporations.

Check out Dr. Goldstein's acclaimed CD's on Mindful Solutions for Stress, Anxiety, and Depression, Mindful Solutions for Addiction and RelapsePrevention, and Mindful Solutions for Success and Stress Reduction at Work. -- "They are so relevant, I have marked them as one of my favorites on a handout I give to all new clients" ~ Psychiatrist.

If you're wanting to integrate more mindfulness into your daily life, sign up for his Mindful Living Twitter Feed. Dr. Goldstein is also available for private psychotherapy.

Reader Comments
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Thank you for this post! - Traci - Dec 19th 2011

Thank you so much for this post, I know several people that needed to see these words to help them \\

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