C.S. Lewis, the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, describes his grief and sadness after the passing of his wife in his book, A Grief Observed, “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”
Loss, sadness, and grief affect every part of life and can leave you feeling hollow and empty.
The holiday season can be a severe emotional challenge for people dealing with loss, whether it’s the passing of a loved one, losing a job, or a failed marriage.
While everyone else feels festive and cheerful, enjoying the sights, sounds, and flavors of the holidays, life feels bleak, grey, and hopeless for someone in the grip of sorrow.
Ignoring or denying holiday sadness doesn’t make it go away; it might even make it worse.
Rumi said, “The cure for pain is in the pain.”
As bitter as it is, we must live through our grief. Besides, what’s the alternative?
Brenda Neal writes, “My life was suddenly divided into BEFORE and AFTER, and there was no going back to BEFORE. But then I realized I had a choice to live the AFTER. I had to decide.”
Although it’s the last thing we feel like doing, we must learn how to embrace our grief and journey through its dark and painful valley, so we don’t fall into unhealthy or harmful behaviors and habits to dull our pain.
This short article in no way claims to hold the answers to someone’s sadness and grief, for that would be arrogant, naive, and trite.
But it hopes to lessen the emotional pain of loss by humbly sharing five tips for taking care of yourself as you cope with holiday sadness.
We must muster all the courage we can to face the pain, not avoid it, to safeguard our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
5 Self-Care Suggestions During Times Of Grief
Avoid Isolation: Enjoy Time With Others
According to experts, one of the best things we can do during times of grief is to surround ourselves with people who are close to us.
Even if you can’t be with them in person, you can video call via Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, a social media app, or Alexa.
Make technology work for you! You can enjoy a meal or watch a movie together virtually.
You’d be surprised at how comforting it can be to enjoy the company of your loved ones virtually. Although they’re not there in person, you’re still experiencing their presence.
If you don’t have access to video, why not text or get on the phone and just call regularly?
Lean on them. Let them support you. Vent, laugh, weep, remember, pray.
And in those moments when you don’t feel like talking, ask them to talk about their day or upcoming plans or goals or something crazy they’d like to do.
Interacting with them by listening to the details of their life will calm your mind and soothe your emotions. You’ll feel encouraged, perhaps even a bit more hopeful.
Keep in mind that some people may feel like they need to respect your time of sorrow, loss, or grief, so they won’t bring it up. It isn’t because they’re insensitive or don’t love you. They probably don’t know what to say and are waiting for you to talk about it first so they have a green light to have that conversation with you.
If you feel like talking about your feelings, call or text a friend and ask, “Are you free for lunch or coffee, or a video call?”
Think of it as a gentle nudge for others to know that you’d like some company and would enjoy spending time with friends and family.
During times of sorrow and grief, there’ll be moments when you need to be alone, but there will be many more moments when you need to lean on and enjoy the company of those closest to you. And if you don’t have anyone really close to you, perhaps consider connecting with a faith community.
Enjoy Time In Nature
Spending time in the sunshine and fresh air can calm the mind and replenish a depleted soul.
Find a bench or take a chair with you and just sit.
Take in the fragrances, notice the sounds, and feel the breeze on your face.
Watch the clouds drift overhead.
Listen to the birds.
Connect with nature and let your mind wander wherever it wishes.
You might even take a journal and write whatever you think or feel.
Let nature calm your heart and soothe your soul.
According to research, the sunshine and fresh air relieve stress and reduce anxiety, helping you to feel connected to something bigger.
The Japanese have been connecting with nature for at least forty years to soothe their soul with a type of therapy they call shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing.’
They spend time in a forest, either walking around, sitting, or even lying down on the ground, and soak up all that nature has to offer.
Walking, hiking, sitting, or biking in nature takes your mind off your grief and stimulates the release of feel-good hormones that will boost your mood and well-being.
Enjoy The Soothing Power Of Journaling
Writing is a cornerstone of self-care. And it can be used to focus your thoughts and gain insight into your feelings whether you’re going through depression, sorrow, or even the happiest of times.
Some people keep private journals. Others write notes to their friends and loved ones. Some even write notes to their loved ones who’ve passed on as a way to process and voice their grief; this helps them work through their pain and get help with finding closure.
There’s no right or wrong way to journal.
Some people do “stream of conscious” journaling, writing whatever comes to their mind; they don’t judge it because it doesn’t have to make sense; they’ll look at it later to see if there are any patterns or themes to their thoughts to get a clearer perspective.
Don’t be critical of yourself. Be kind and empathetic because the journey you’re on is difficult. So be your own best advocate.
Enjoy Watching Or Reading Something Funny
Reading gives your mind a break from focusing on loss and grief for a little while.
Some people read books on coping with grief and recovery.
Others will choose something a little more lighthearted. According to the research, reading a funny book may alleviate feelings of darkness and sorrow.
If reading a book is a bit too much or you don’t like to read, consider watching something funny. Laughter soothes pain and brightens the mood.
Enjoy The Support Of A Bereavement Group
Search the Internet for grief support groups in your area; there’ll be many. Connecting socially with people who understand how you feel and what you’re going through can be incredibly powerful.
You don’t have to talk if you don’t feel like it. Just be there, and listen to people sharing their struggles, feelings, and memories.
Seeing how they’re coping with their emotions will help you find ways to cope with your own. And knowing that they’re there to support you will be a source of strength when you need it most.
There are various grief support groups these days, like groups that double as book clubs or bike clubs.
Give yourself the gift of enjoying a couple of hours each week with people going through what you’re going through but choosing to share the journey together.
Sorrow is a lonely journey, but you don’t have to take it alone.
And although life can feel incredibly dark and depressing during the holidays, these are five things you can do to ease the pain. They’re not a magic cure, but there’s no such thing anyway.
If you’re coping with sorrow and grief this holiday season, please don’t isolate yourself. Give yourself the gift of connecting with friends, loved ones, nature, and faith during this journey of healing and recovery.
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