Dealing with Grief in a Time of Joy

dealing with grief 1721

5 tips to help you cope 

Not all holiday seasons are joyful. They have a way of resurrecting grief from difficult experiences. When we see others celebrating the joy of the season, memories flood our hearts, reminding us of the tragedy we want to forget.

If you or your child is grieving this holiday season, don't deny your feelings. The first season following a loss or life-altering tragedy will be particularly difficult. But that doesn't mean you must isolate yourself to make it through. Here are five tips to help cope with feelings that accompany difficult circumstances affecting the holiday season.

1. Give permission to grieve. Don't act as if nothing's happened and try to go along with the celebration of the season. Recognize that grief, with heightened emotions and unpredictable behavior, will surround every aspect of holiday festivities. Creating a "new normal" for the holidays takes time and will only happen after one has been allowed to grieve the "old normal."

2. Offer grace freely. The first year after my stepson lost his mother, I anticipated a rocky holiday. But what I didn't anticipate was how difficult the next year, and the next year, and the next would be. I learned to allow him the freedom to go participate in family celebrations if he wanted, or retreat to his room when he needed. I didn't take it personally when he chose to withdraw or lash out on days I was especially cheery. Offering him the gift of grace was the best gift anyone could give him during that time.

3. Cherish the good days. There will be good days and bad, high times and low. Embrace the good days and celebrate the season. Choose your favorite holiday festivity and make time to enjoy it. Don't wait! You might not have many joy-filled moments but the ones you do have can help carry you through the hard ones. If you notice your grief-filled child having a good day, suggest a special activity or ask what he would like to do to celebrate the season, even if it's as simple as making cookies.

4. Don't overextend yourself or your child. Leave your options open so you can attend the Christmas party or other celebration if you feel like it that day, or stay home without obligation. Be sensitive to whether your child wants to participate when friends invite him over or ask him to join their party. Unstable emotions create tension-filled days that are best spent at home, surrounded by those you love.

5. Remember: there will be better days ahead. When you want to bury your head in your bed covers, remind yourself there's hope for a new tomorrow. Hard times don't last forever, and time helps heal our wounds. Look forward to fresh beginnings as a new year approaches.



Where to Find Help in San Diego

The Elizabeth Hospice
www.elizabethhospice.org
Provides medical, emotional, and spiritual support to children and adults faced with the challenges associated with a life-threatening illness, and restores hope to those who are grieving and feeling lost or alone. Grief support services are open to everyone, including families who do not have a patient affiliation with The Elizabeth Hospice. 

Hope Bereavement Support Programs of Rady Children’s Hospital
rchsd.org

Rady Children’s Hospital’s Hope Bereavement Support Programs strive to support families in times of loss and grief by offering individualized grieving methods and providing support resources.

Isabella’s Giraffe Club
www.isabellasgiraffeclub.org

Isabella’s Giraffe Club is a nonprofit organization committed to providing emotional support for parents with infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and provides coping programs and support groups for anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one.

The Compassionate Friends
www.compassionatefriends.org

The Compassionate Friends is a nonprofit organization that helps families cope with the death of a child. It welcomes children, teens and parents to its meetings to assist them in their natural grieving processes. There is a San Diego County chapter.

Scripps Hospital
scripps.org
Scripps Hospital supports adults grieving the death of a loved one, providing spouse or parent loss support groups to assist in the coping process.

TAPS – Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors
www.taps.org

TAPS offers support for grieving military widows or fiancés, providing retreat programs, in-person support, online support groups and peer mentoring programs.

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Gayla Grace is a freelance writer.

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