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Loss and The Holidays… “Three Dont’s”

13458674_sThis blog post was written by Recovery Help Now’s, Amy Margolis, Registered MSW.

The holidays conjure up all kinds of images, ideas and expectations for people. The longer I am alive, the more people I meet who get completely stressed around the holidays. And this is not due to the shopping, hustle and bustle. People are stressed out because their holiday reality just doesn’t measure up to “Norman Rockwell.” One reason for this is Loss. Nothing brings up the emptiness we feel over the loss of a loved one like the holidays. Most people’s vivid childhood memories concern holiday traditions. If you have lost loved one you spent these special times with you really feel their absence this time of year.

I remember the year my dad died. It was beautiful death experience and I grieved appropriately (as I continue to do so when that grief comes up). That Christmas season, I was happy and excited to buy presents for my kids and the people we love. Then out of nowhere I was overwhelmed with sadness. I missed my dad so poignantly. I’ve noticed every year since at holiday time a sadness comes up over missing him and many family members I have lost over the years.

To deal with Loss over the Holidays I suggest Three Don’ts

1. Don’t Run: Nobody likes to feel sad. It’s not fun. But I can promise you if you lean into the feelings and give them space to breathe, they will pass and you will feel more intimately connected and at peace with yourself and (God or whatever you believe in). If you’re not sure how to get to your feelings, journaling, meditating, or talking aloud to yourself (or your Creator) can be great. You can often feel the sadness in your body. Sometimes just turning on music and breathing will bring up a good cry.

2. Don’t Act Out: Many of us are raised to not acknowledge our feelings. We were told, “Don’t cry. Don’t be sad. Be good. Be tough.” We learned not to trust our feelings and shut down. We may have watched our parents cope by drinking, shopping, eating, raging, etc. In turn, as adults, we may employ similar coping behaviors to deal with difficult feelings. If you are sad over a loss at the holidays, don’t binge out on eggnog or holiday cookies. You will simply be adding a layer of self recrimination over your initial sadness and never deal with the real issue. And this is a prescription for depression.

3. Don’t Keep it A Secret: Some people don’t want to admit they are feeling loss around the holidays. After all, shouldn’t we be grateful? We have our health, enough food on the table, people who love us. Yet admitting it to a trusted friend, therapist, or support group is a great way to alleviate it. There isn’t a person walking the planet who hasn’t suffered a loss. Sharing your feelings will cause you to feel less alone. You may forge a deeper connection with others and benefit them as well. And you will feel validated. It’s when we feel validated for our feelings that we can honor them let them go.

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