Edgewood Blog

Ask an Edge Expert: December 2018

Posted on: December 6, 2018

Grief and Loss: How to Find a Healthy Balance During the Holidays

Featured Expert: Jodi Metcalf, LMFT

Twinkle lights, festive music, cheerful greetings from loved ones and strangers alike…the holiday season is in full swing here at Edgewood, and everywhere you go these days it seems. For many, this is a time of joy, nostalgia, and memory making with friends and family. For some, however, the holiday season can be daunting. Experiencing the loss of a significant person in your life is always painful, but feels especially overwhelming during the holidays. Let’s explore some ways to process and cope with grief in healthy ways.

Let it out

The first and most important thing to remember about grief is that it’s a process. There will be days when you feel fine, and days when you need to cry. When the emotions come, don’t stifle them. If you need to cry, or want to be alone, make it a priority to do so. Grief comes in waves, and can be triggered by seemingly random things. You can’t always plan for it, but you can allow yourself to feel the emotions, and get them out.

Talk about it

Don’t be afraid to share memories of your loved one with your friends and family. Remembering them as they were (good and bad) is a testament to their meaning in your life. Celebrate their impact on your life, laugh at the funny memories, and cry about the sad ones. Write memories down so you can always look back at them through the years. Keep their memory alive by sharing it with others.

Give yourself time

There is no right way to grieve. Every relationship is unique, and every person processes grief in their own way. Don’t give yourself (or let anyone else give you) a timeline. To grieve well is to fully experience the loss of a significant person in your life, in ebbs and flows, as it comes. There will be seasons when grief feels manageable, even distant. There will be seasons when grief feels suffocating. Neither is wrong. Take each day as it comes, and stay present in your thoughts and feelings.

Take breaks

For some of us, guilt comes when we laugh, or feel happy, or have a moment of enjoyment. There is nothing wrong with enjoying your life while also grieving. Balance means just that – finding ways to be joyful in the midst of sadness. You have to be gentle with yourself, and allow yourself to take breaks from the heaviness of grief. Take opportunities to do things you enjoy, and spend time with loved ones.

Honor your loved one

Did your friend or family member love movies? Long walks? Traveling? Find ways (big or small) to honor them by engaging in activities that they enjoyed, or experiences that you did together. Donating to a charity or cause in their name, or helping others who are in need can be a meaningful way to honor the life of your loved one.

Make a memory box

One tangible way to process grief is to create a memory box. This can be done in a variety of ways, but I suggest utilizing a shadow box that can be filled with pictures, notes, special tokens, and memorabilia that create a picture of your loved one’s life. This is a great activity to do as a family (especially with children) to process the loss of a grandparent, beloved pet, or someone special to the family.

Keep living

Survivor’s guilt can be suffocating, and is a very common experience for those who have loss someone important. Especially in the case of sudden and unexpected loss, many people tend to wonder if there was something they could have done to prevent the death. Wondering “what if” is a recipe for disaster. There is nothing to be done about the loss, because the past cannot be changed. The healthiest way to move through this guilt is to value your own life, and live it well. Take that trip you’ve been meaning to go on. Reach out to an old friend who you’ve lost touch with. Set goals, and achieve them. Honor your loved one by experiencing your life to it’s fullest potential.

Seek help

If the loss is debilitating, or you feel that you are crossing over into depression, anxiety, or another clinical issue, reach out for help. Grief and loss is life changing. Many times, the help of a professional is needed to process the loss. There is no shame in this. The burden of grief can be massive, and professional counselors are trained to help guide you through this process with a listening ear and empathetic heart. If you or someone you know is struggling with grief, don’t be afraid to make an appointment with a mental health professional.

 

Should you or someone you know have specific questions or concerns regarding grief, don’t hesitate to e-mail me at jmetcalf@edgewoodclinicalservices.com.

 

Season’s blessings to you all as we close another year, and prepare for 2019.