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Grief & Holiday Season: Protecting Your Mental Health When You Lose a Loved One

Grief is not the easiest to navigate, especially during the holidays, but here's how to make it less difficult.

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With the holiday season knocking at our doors, feelings of joy, happiness, and excitement are bound to be in the air. But while most people have positive experiences during the holidays, there is a possibility that some of us may have neutral or negative experiences during this time, especially if we have experienced the loss of a loved one.

Our thoughts about this loss can shape and colour our feelings and behavior.

The loss of a loved one, in itself, is difficult to come to terms with but during the holidays when we are surrounded with people who are happy and merry, the loss may seem even more evident and difficult to cope with.

Thoughts about missing the presence of the person, not being able to share the joys and happiness with them, memories of the things that they did and liked during this period, can lead to feeling of sadness, anger, anxiety, and disappointment.

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Why Holidays Are Difficult When You've Lost A Loved One

Sometimes, seeing others interact with their loved ones can trigger that feeling of void, giving way to anger, jealousy, and even irritability.

Different people experience loss and grief in their own unique manner. Someone may cry, another may become quiet, while others may try to distract themselves to cope with the feelings, and some may even turn to substance use.

Aggressive behavior, staying aloof, not wanting to be seen or meet others can be some more behaviors. If left unchecked, there is a possibility that the distress can grow into a mental health condition in the near future.

Grief is not the easiest to navigate, especially during the holidays, but there are certain things that we can do that can make the experience less difficult and more manageable.

  • Acknowledge that it is a difficult experience and accept that there is a possibility of experiencing different emotions, which is a natural response. This reduces the pressure of looking normal or happy in front of others in our mind.

  • Look at the holidays as a time to unwind and maybe start that activity that you were thinking of doing for the longest time but could not due to your busy schedule.

Activities related to cleaning, repair work, changes in our homes, etc can be done at this time. These everyday activities can engage our mind and help it disconnect from the thoughts related to the holidays and missing the loved one for a few hours.

It can further lead to a good physical activity which may help in improving the quality of sleep, which can be impacted when we are grieving. This can also create a purpose for us to look forward to on a daily basis which can help in improving our mood.

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Grieving At Your Own Pace

  • Spend time with other family members or friends and cherish the memories of the loved ones. Go through old photos, talk about them, and express your feelings in a healthy and adaptive manner.

  • Communicate with a confidante. It helps us realise that we are not alone and that there is someone to listen to us and understand us.

  • Take your time to grieve and derive meaning from the loss.

  • Travel somewhere.

Having a small travel plan during the holidays can be a good form of change and it gives us an opportunity to have a physical and mental break to disconnect.

Lastly, it is okay to not feel okay. But it is not okay to not seek help. Opting for professional help will not take away the distress that one experiences during a loss, but it can help us develop certain techniques and strategies that can help navigate grief.

(Vikram Kirtikar is a Senior Psychologist and Outreach Associate at Mpower, a mental health movement by Aditya Birla Education Trust. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Mental Health   Holidays   Christmas 

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