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Grief and Holidays - tips for managing grief during Christmas and the New Year.

It's that time of year again. The time when all the world seems happy and yet those grieving the death of a loved one can find themselves dreading the ever approaching holiday season and maybe have not connected the dots yet as to why.

The increasing feeling of impending stress around the Christmas and New Year Holiday period brings many people to my practice at this time of year. They are not alone. you are not alone if you are feeling an increase in the symptoms of grief. Those difficult to ride waves of grief come in stark contrast to the brightly coloured shop fronts, the streets filled with Christmas lights and giant sized air filled gingerbread people, candy canes, happy faces and gifts all wrapped and ready.

If you are wondering how to get through the holiday season without your loved one, or how to deal with the triggers of grief at this time, here are some strategies that may help:

1. Acknowledge the holidays may be difficult. If we can anticipate our grief responses and acknowledge our grief, it actually helps us heal. Grief is a part of the healing journey. Anticipating grief helps us plan around it and we are not taken by surprise.

2. Validate the existence of grief. Sometimes sitting with grief rather than fighting it, validates its existence. Validation is like salve to a wound, we can give that as a gift to ourselves as well as to others who may be grieving during the holidays.

3. Allow yourself room to do things differently. It can be difficult to carry on with the same traditions if they are closely linked to a love one you have lost. Some people decide that is how they honour the person, by continuing with the tradition and remembering. Others find it overwhelming to do those things that specifically involved their loved one, and often they can feel under pressure to continue with traditions, yet struggling with the emotions that are triggered. All yourself the freedom to do what is right for you, not for Aunt Mable or cousin Joe, but for you.

Last of all, it is ok to ask for help. If you are struggling with the loss of a loved one and those feelings become overwhelming, its ok to let others know it is a hard time for you. Allow them to help if they offer. For some this will be enough, for others, you may need the support of a grief counsellor or a grief group. You are not alone, and if you feel you are, reach out, pick up the phone and ask for support. Help is close at hand.

Take care these holidays and remember, be kind, everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.

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