Stuffed turkeys and yuletide carols might be the stuff of holiday cheer, but when you’re grieving, twinkling lights and festive dishes could simply be salt on your open wounds. The holidays – with their ubiquitous scents, sounds, sights and feelings – likely reminds you of a happier time, or simply a time spent with someone you loved who is gone. Your “ghosts” of Christmases, Thanksgivings, New Years’ or Hanukahs past might still be haunting you this holiday season. Here’s what you can do to get through it.
You’ve heard the old adage that a failure to plan is a plan to fail. If you’re dreading the holiday season, the last thing you want to do is make plans for it. But guess what? Avoiding the holidays – like avoiding your grief – will only make it worse. Plan where you’ll be and who you’ll be with for any major holidays you celebrate. Make sure to choose company that understands what you’re going through and can act as a support system for you. If other family members are grieving, talk about how each family member feels comfortable celebrating. What is comforting for one might be painful for another, so be candid with your feelings.
Take care of yourself first
Regardless of what you’re going through, the holiday season can be draining. But when you’re grieving, the stress of family plans, work obligations, gift lists and party planning can seem insurmountable. During this time, give yourself the greatest gift you can: self-care. Practice healthy nutrition, good sleep habits and engage in some quiet relaxation or meditation on a daily basis. Don’t feel guilty for skipping out on your office holiday party in order to relax and recharge. Only you know how to best care for yourself, so if that involves surrounding yourself with family and friends, do it. If it means quiet time alone, that’s okay too.
Ask for help
If you’re like most people, “help” is a four-letter word you try to avoid. But when you’re grieving, you need support. Sadly, after a death, even though your friends and family want to help, they simply don’t know how. That’s where you come in. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – and to do so specifically. If you need someone to simply give you a call every day to lift your spirits, ASK! Believe me, people want to help; they just need you to tell them how to do so effectively.
Do some good
Grieving has a way of turning our feelings inward. That’s only natural, as you are forced to confront your new reality of a life without a person or relationship you valued. But one of the best ways for you to get the focus off your grief is to simply lend a helping hand. Fortunately, charitable opportunities abound this time of the year, so find a good cause and get involved. Whether you’re simply dropping change in a collection jar or organizing a food drive from scratch, serving others is both comforting and healing throughout the grieving process.
Remember that you’re unique
Unless you live in a Hallmark original movie, holidays are rarely perfect – for anyone, let alone someone suffering through a loss. Be careful not to compare your holiday celebrations with those of a friend, family member or acquaintance (which likely looks more picture-perfect on social media than it was in reality). Likewise, don’t feel pressure to grieve in a certain way, either. There’s no guilt in enjoying a holiday gathering or event, even if your loss is recent.
Get some help
Grief knows no season, but it can certainly be accentuated by memories of a certain time of year. If you need a little extra help through the holiday season, a professional grief counselor might be your best resource. I know how hard this time of year can be for my clients, and I have specific exercises and habits to help make it more manageable (or even enjoyable). For more information on grief counseling, visit thegriefgirl.com.
When tragedy strikes, it’s important to grieve in an honest and healthy way.
Death and grief are part of each of our lives, but sometimes these losses are more difficult – or even impossible – to understand. Such was the case last week, when a mass shooting in Las Vegas left the entire nation, and the world, grieving the loss of innocent lives – and trying to explain the inexplicable. As a nation attempts to process and heal from this horrific event, we at The Grief Girl send our thoughts and prayers to all the victims and their families.
Events like this one in Las Vegas, along with natural disasters, terror attacks and other tragedies, leave us reeling. It’s normal to feel vulnerable, fearful of the future and overwhelmed by the helplessness you feel to enact change on a seemingly cruel world. At times like these, it’s important to honor your feelings in an honest and healthy way. You might feel shock, sorrow, fear, anger, grief or any number of emotions. Through this time, there are a few things you can do to heal and help others heal:
Please remember that the world in which we live is filled with love and beauty. As we struggle to understand events like these, it’s important that we, above all else, show kindness and acceptance to each other. From all of us at The Grief Girl, our prayers and love are with you.
Every year, more than 44,000 Americans die by suicide, making it the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. And even with an average of 121 suicides a day, suicide remains the topic no one wants to talk about. This week marks the National Suicide Prevention Week, and there’s no better time to think – and talk – about the epidemic that’s plaguing our nation. Teens specifically need our help today, as suicide is now the second cause of death for ages 10 to 24 (according to the CDC). As parents, educators and people who love teens, we can make important contributions this week – and in weeks, months and years to come – to a cause we all care about: preventing suicide.
Take a minute
Thanks to a generous donation (from an angel!), I’ll be providing 100,000 copies of my book, “R U OK: Teen Depression and Suicide” to various schools and youth organizations. I need help making sure these books get into the hands of those people who need them most – our teens. All it takes for me to succeed in saving a life – or many – is your help. Take a minute to sign up your school or organization to receive free books, or volunteer to donate your time shipping these materials out to those who need them most. Visit my website or email Kristi@thegriefgirl.com for more information.
Talk to your kids
Parenting requires tough conversations, as any parent who’s broached the birds and the bees can attest. Today, our teens are getting educated on suicide – and you likely won’t like what they’re learning. Today, social media, TV shows and even news stories glamorize suicide without offering hope or resources to which teens can turn. That means it’s up to you to make sure your kids have the information they need. If you’re not sure where to start, pick up a copy of “R U OK? Teen Depression and Suicide,” which serves as a tactical guide for talking about suicide.
Know the warning signs
My work continually puts me in front of teens, educators and parents. One of the most important things I can communicate is how to recognize the warning signs for suicide. When my husband completed suicide four years ago, I failed to recognize the signs. Knowing what to look for can literally save a life. For a comprehensive list of suicide warning signs, check out “R U OK?” Some of the more common signs include:
· disinterest in favorite extracurricular activities
· substance abuse
· behavioral problems
· withdrawing from family and friends
· changes in sleep patterns: sleeping too much or too little
· changes in eating habits: overeating, binging, not eating
· neglecting personal appearance: not showering or messy appearance
· lack of concentration
· declining grades
· deepening depression
· preoccupation with death
· risk-taking or self-destructive behavior
· frequent complaints of boredom
· does not respond as before to praise
The less we talk about it, the more power suicide has over our lives – and the lives of our teens. National Suicide Prevention Week is all about generating awareness, and that’s something I’ve dedicated my life to doing. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention lists several ways you can promote awareness, from joining a walk to taking a selfie. Want to really make a difference? Sign up your school or organization to receive free copies of “R U OK? Teen Depression and Suicide.”
Listen to someone
Suicide is all about hopelessness. Sometimes, all it takes is a caring, listening ear to help someone feel hopeful again. This week, lend your ear – and your time – to someone who seems like they need to talk. For helpful ways on how to have that conversation, check out my tips.
by Kristi Hugstad
Each of us has attached ourselves to something or somebody, and when you lose that special thing or person, you grieve. Always. You can try to run from it all you want, but it will always find you and tackle you when you’re not looking. My blogs, along with my books, will give you the tools to help you learn to live with your new self as you journey through your grief.