AMHERST, Mass. (Mass Appeal) - Clinical Psychologist Tim Hope shared some tips on how to cope with grief around the holidays.
Grief and the holidays
Acknowledge your experiences - Validate your feelings, allow yourself time and space to recall memories of those who are no longer here to share in the holidays, relish the new, joyful experiences you are creating with your family. If your children ask you what you are feeling, tell them in language that they can understand. They understand that many of the stories associated with the holidays are bittersweet, and they can understand that your feelings might have a mix of joyful and sad.
Take time for yourself – Sometimes self-care is the best thing you can do—others will benefit when you're stress - free. Go for a long walk, get a massage or take time out to listen to your favorite music or read a new book. All of us need some time to recharge our batteries—the holidays are a complicated time.
Contribute - Find a local charity, such as a soup kitchen or a shelter where you and your family can volunteer. Also, participating in a giving tree or an adopt-a-family program, and helping others feels good and can help put the holiday experience into perspective.
Have realistic expectations – No holiday celebration is perfect, and no one is perfect. We all do our best, and yet we all make mistakes. View inevitable missteps as opportunities to demonstrate flexibility and resilience. Changes in the holiday routine naturally occur after the loss of a loved one; view it as an opportunity to create a new family tradition.
Remember what's important – The barrage of holiday advertising can make you forget what the holiday season is really about: giving of ourselves to others and letting our loved ones know that we appreciate them.
Seek support – As you are comfortable, talk about your grief with your friends and family. Getting things out in the open can help you navigate your feelings and continue on your path toward a resolution for your grief. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, consider seeing a professional such as a psychologist to help you manage your holiday grief.
Tips to help yourself and children
Here are a few things we can keep in mind as we all try to cope with the tragedy and senseless loss of life we have just witnessed in Newtown, CT.
Make connections - Reach out to each other. Go to group gatherings for prayers and support.
Avoid seeing this crisis as insurmountable. Right now this may be very hard. It may help to remember how we survived 9/11 and other terrible events. We overcome because it is in our very gut to survive. And we owe it to our children.
Take decisive actions - Doing things really helps. Make cards, cook meals, make a donation for the families who lost children and parents.
Keep things in perspective - Remember, Adam Lanza acted alone. If we work together, we can accomplish so much.
Maintain a hopeful outlook - Believe that good will overcome the bad. Look around you and you will see so many random acts of kindness being performed every day. Watch an inspiring movie. Even if it makes you cry, the tears can help you as you grieve this forrific event.
Take care of yourself and your family - Hug each other. A lot. Try to eat well, get some rest and maintain some sort of routine.