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Getting Through the Holidays in the Wake of a Personal Loss

When we think of the Holiday season, we tend to think of celebrations shared with friends, family, and loved ones. Many of us have long held traditions that are near and dear to us, that we look forward to each year. However, if you have recently lost a loved one or suffered a major loss, these celebrations and traditions will likely not be as happy or exciting this year.

After a loss, we often ask ourselves “What will make the pain go away?” Unfortunately, it is a mistake to think there is any one thing we can do to simply take the pain, or the feeling of loss away. But, there are ways to get through the season and continue through the grief process to gradually get more fully back into life.

There is a normal tendency to withdraw (maybe traditions don’t seem as meaningful) but  withdrawal will  make your world more lonely than it needs to be. Spend time with your friends and family who are still here, because now, more than ever, you need to reach out and surround yourself with loved ones. A natural inclination may be to shut down and shut out the world – but isolation will only make the pain of loss stronger.

 In addition to people, be involved with “things” as much as you can – find an organization that is meaningful to you and volunteer, attend events and activities that interest you – try to stay busy.  Push yourself a bit. Business is a distraction – but it is also an important part of healing, it helps you realize that you can get through it all.

The holidays may be a “hump” to get through at first, but fighting the urge to be alone will, ultimately, be better for you. Surround yourself with loved ones, with people you are most comfortable with, and take it day by day. And remember that it will get easier over time. 

Contributed by the Dr. Ed Silberman, a Psychiatrist at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MA.

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