Paula Shaw, grief expert, author and speaker, discusses how to survive the holidays after the loss of a loved one.
The holidays are officially upon us. For some, this means joy and celebration and giving gifts to loved ones. For others, it can be a difficult time of year, particularly if you’ve recently lost someone close to you, whether it be through death, a breakup, a fight, or even a house move.
Losing someone always hurts – but if we share holiday memories with them, and now have to face the holidays without them, it can put your pain on steroids.
These weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s are toughest on people who have suffered any kind of loss or serious breakup. The holidays are the most tradition-laden time of the year and when the people (or animals) who participated in those traditions are no longer with us, it changes the whole experience.
Being surrounded by people who appear to be having a cheerful holiday time just makes it worse. It can feel like you’re the only one in the world in pain at this time of year. It can feel so lonely and unfair. Carols like “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!” seem to mock your grief. You may even find yourself wanting to punch a shopping mall Santa, or throw a child off his lap and ask him to bring back your dad or ex-boyfriend.
But there are ways to cope with the difficult holiday time and take back your personal power of enjoyment. I will be going into this in more depth in my upcoming FREE webinar on Dec. 10th at 6:00 p.m. PST. For now, here are some ways you can start to deal with your pain and grief effectively. Perhaps, in the process, you will begin some new traditions.
First, be authentic - no brave soldiers allowed. This is a hard time to be in pain and it’s ok to acknowledge that. Tell your truth. Allow yourself to mourn. Talk about your feelings. Discuss the holidays with family and try to gear your plans around aspects of the holidays that are special to them. For example, if gathering together to decorate the tree is special, plan an evening of doing that rather than attending a party with friends. If there are special foods that are meaningful to certain family members, put effort into preparing those foods for the holiday, rather than making treat gifts for everyone at the office. Don’t forget to include yourself in the mix. What is important to you? What will be healing and pleasant for you to experience? If you’re too tired or emotional to go to a holiday event, allow yourself to stay home.
It’s also a good idea to consciously focus on happy holiday memories and the happy moments of the present. Whatever we focus on, receives our energy, and whatever we feed energy to, will grow. While it’s important to feel our pain and grieve, it’s equally important to focus on what is joyful and pleasant so we can expand the positive feelings as well. Sometimes people feel it is an act of disloyalty to feel joyful when someone you love is gone. This isn’t so. Joy is one of the signs that you are emerging from the grief and returning to life. Your loved one would certainly want that to happen. If this happens to you, know that you honor your loved one best by being fully alive in your life. Remember: grief is a process…not an event!
Cut Back! Be aware of your comfort zone and honor it. Don’t get sucked into the ‘holiday shoulds.’ Plan ahead. Sit yourself down and make a list of the holiday activities and how you can best handle them. Allow yourself to stay in low gear. Your mantra should be, “Keep things simple.” Here are some examples of the choices you actually have:
Remember to explore new options. Please ahead. Don’t be alone or overwhelmed.
Finally, establish new traditions and activities. Don’t be afraid to honor the loved one who has been lost. Don’t try to keep everything the same when nothing is the same. Here are some ideas for changes you could make:
The bottom line is that nothing is as it was and it’s healthier to acknowledge that truth than to ignore ‘the elephant in the middle of the living room.’ As I mentioned in last week’s blog, grieving authentically is the healthiest way to grieve. Everybody knows upheaval is in progress and trust me, it’s a heck of a lot easier on everybody to acknowledge that truth and try to plan around it. Remember: you don’t have to be a victim to tradition, or constantly try to fill the hole in your heart created by someone who isn’t there anymore.
Grief is exhausting, so I encourage you to take care of yourself and your limited energy and honor the truth you are experiencing. The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, even if painful, can be a time of growth if you approach it with a liberal dose of truth and self-love. Suspend your ideas of what’s proper and what’s traditional this year and just focus on what would feel joyful or comforting to you. Doing this is not only ok; it’s absolutely necessary in order to heal from your loss.
PAULA SHAW, CADC, DCEP is an author, Energy Psychology specialist, therapist, speaker, Reiki Master and Grief Counselor. For more than 20 years, Paula has been passionate about empowering people who are dealing with profound loss, so they can reap something truly beautiful from their pain. She also helps clients who are going through major life transitions or seeking freedom from self-destructive addictions. She has degrees in Education and Communications from Long Beach State University, as well as graduate counseling credentials from Loyola Marymount University. She is one of the founding members of the Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology and currently serves on its board of directors. Paula is the auther of Chakras, the Magnificent Seven (2002), as well as the upcoming book When Will This Pain Ever End? Finding Your Way out of the Pit of Despair after Suffering Profound Grief and Loss, which will be released in the spring of 2015.
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PAULA SHAW, CADC, DCEP is an author, Energy Psychology specialist, therapist, speaker, Reiki Master and Grief Counselor. For more than 20 years, Paula has been passionate about empowering people who are dealing with profound loss, so they can reap something truly beautiful from their pain. She also helps clients who are going through major life transitions or seeking freedom from self-destructive addictions. She has degrees in Education and Communications from Long Beach State University, as well as graduate counseling credentials from Loyola Marymount University. She is one of the founding members of the Association of Comprehensive Energy Psychology and currently serves on its board of directors. Paula is the author of Chakras, the Magnificent Seven (2002), as well as "Grief...When Will This Pain Ever End?" Finding Your Way out of the Pit of Despair After Profound Loss.
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