The most wonderful time of the year… is over. The decorations are finally packed away and in many parts of the country, it’s a cold, dark, dreary season. If you’re grieving, the aftermath of the holiday season can feel like more than just a let-down; it can seem completely devastating.
Even though the holidays might bring back memories that can exacerbate your grief, they also provided visitors, parties and celebrations, countless tasks to keep you busy and myriad events to look forward to. Now that the gifts are unwrapped and the parties are over, it’s easy to feel isolated and alone. And when grief meets the post-holiday blues, you could feel trapped without a lifeline. In my experience, overcoming these “blues” takes conscious action. Start with the steps I’ve outlined below.
“Thank” beyond Thanksgiving
A day of Thanksgiving is fantastic; practicing gratitude on a daily basis is a priceless tool to help you overcome your grief. In my book, “What I Wish I’d Known: Finding Your Way Through the Tunnel of Grief,” I explain how gratitude helped change my life after my husband’s suicide. My day begins and ends with gratitude. Each morning, I start my day by listing five great things that will happen today – I say these out loud and, consequently, I feel grateful for the day.
Every day, I remind myself of all the people and things in my life for which I’m grateful. I list these (out loud or in my head) each day, even as I’m on “autopilot” – driving, cleaning or cooking. My list changes from day to day, but it always includes my family, my health, my friends, a career that makes me passionate and a world that allows me to learn and grow – and recognize that grief is not the enemy; it’s the teacher.
There’s nothing wrong with recalling happy memories of holidays past, but living in the past won’t help you forge a happy future. When you’re grieving, it’s important to have something to look forward to. With the holidays behind you, you may feel like there’s nothing left to anticipate. Mark your calendar with events or occasions that excite you. If you can’t think of any, it’s time to make a plan. Enroll in a class you think you’ll enjoy, plan a vacation or buy tickets to an amazing play. Looking forward will help you move through each day with excitement.
Take care of yourself
It may seem simple, but one thing many of my grief counseling clients neglect is, well, themselves. When you’re grieving, it can be easy to become apathetic about what you eat, how well you sleep or whether or not you take the time to relax and unwind. Make small, attainable goals each day in order to practice self-care. Get moving – whether that’s a hardcore gym session or a walk around the block. Be conscious about what you eat and make sure it’s wholesome and nutritious. If you’re not sleeping well (or sleeping too much), set sleep goals that include a regular bedtime and regular wake time.
Make a list
…you might even want to check it twice. Now that the holidays are over, you can spend time getting your life and home in order. Make a list of those tasks you’ve been avoiding and gain the satisfaction of crossing them off one by one. Start with something simple – like organizing your storage closet or stocking the pantry. Whether you’re paying bills, scrapbooking an old vacation or remodeling a bathroom, completing these tasks will help give you a sense of accomplishment.
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.