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You are here: Home Letters to the Editor ‘Tis The Season To Be Jolly…..that is unless you are not quite feeling it.

‘Tis The Season To Be Jolly…..that is unless you are not quite feeling it.

holidaybluesIf you have experienced a recent loss; the death of a family member or partner, the end of a relationship, the loss of a job or a much-loved pet, all the forced cheer and strangers wishing you "Happy Holidays" can make you feel like staying in your room under lots of covers until January 2. Without being able to fast forward time, here are some suggestions to get through the next few weeks.

Connect consciously.
Make plans with people around whom you can just be yourself, without expectations. Get out of town if that helps. Visit an old friend or family member who understands exactly where you are. Connect with others who have experienced similar losses through groups, for example, like the ones offered through the Bereavement Center of Westchester. Or try something totally different. Kripalu Center in the Berkshires offers Grief, Loss and Renewal retreats in December, and other programs over New Year's.

Do less.
Let others host, or supply the homemade treats this year. Take people up on offers to help by thinking about what might really be helpful for you and your family. Ask friends to pick up boxes of chocolate for you to give out as small gifts, for example, or to coordinate bringing dinner a few nights a week.

Find comfort in rituals.
Adjust the old ones if necessary. If someone is missing, or your family has a new constellation, don't just gloss over the loss or change, bring it out into the open. Include loved ones who are no longer here with stories and memories and photos. It's perfectly fine to cry a bit while carving the turkey if Dad always did it in years past, or while decorating the tree if you are no longer doing it as a nuclear family.

Come up with new ones.
Last year, I worked with a family to help them decide on a special way to honor their father/husband on his birthday, the first since he had passed away. They chose to take the day off from school (and work) and spend it in Manhattan doing things he particularly loved. They plan to do the same this year, incorporating this day into their family traditions. The day together, along with the planning leading up to it, allows them to feel connected to him and to each other as they move forward.

Welcome sad feelings.
Don't push them away. They will always come back, but if you can make space for them, they eventually won't feel as scary. Think of your feelings of grief as waves in the ocean and let them wash over you completely. They will recede back out after some time, and you will not have drowned. On days when you feel like you are slogging through quicksand, allow yourself to stay quiet, and put aside your normal activity load.

Understand that there is no timeline for grief, and no roadmap to follow.
Everyone's path is different. Give yourself permission to opt out. You don't have to participate in every gathering or seasonal event, even if you have in years past. Enjoy some extra quiet time. On the other hand, if going to lots of events and baking homemade cookies for everyone you know helps keep you present and functioning – go for it. Just make sure you are leaving some time to check in with yourself.

Find your spiritual center.
If you are part of a religious community, you can take part in structured mourning rituals that are offered. Light a candle, say a special prayer. You can do this on your own as well.

Take care of yourself.
Exercise when you can, outside in natural light as much as possible. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink. As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol can lower your mood even further, especially the following day. Try to eat healthy. Schedule a professional massage if that is something you enjoy.

Contemplate gratitude.
Look around when you feel up to it, and think about one or two things, big or small, that you are truly grateful for today – write them down. Try to do that every day for a few minutes.

Know that you will get through this.
In a few weeks, it will be January and everyone will be taking down lights, packing up ornaments, and returning unwanted gifts. Think about one or two things you would like the New Year to bring. It can be as simple as a few moments of unencumbered joy, or as ambitious as a new relationship or job. Trust that you will get there.

stonbergMay 2018 bring peace and healing.

Julie Stonberg is a clinical social worker at Westchester Family Counseling in Hartsdale.


#1 D. Berthold 2017-12-06 11:51
Good, thoughtful piece.

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