If You Are Grieving This Holiday Season, These Self-Care Tips Can Help
The holiday season is a time of giving, joy, warmth, and love, but for many, this season can be a time of immense pain from sadness over loss.
Grief can impact us all in very different ways, and it can be even more difficult this time of year. Grief can happen in response to loss of life, as well as to drastic changes to our daily routines and ways of life that usually bring us comfort and a feeling of stability.
I know firsthand the immense experience grief can cause, as I just got home from the hospital after seeing a close family friend prepare for hospice. For me, this devastating news comes after a year of loss in all its layered forms, from a traumatic breakup, overcoming narcissistic abuse, career setbacks, a diagnosis of fibromyalgia and complex migraines, and now a family death.
Needless to say, loss was the theme of my year.
If you've experienced a loss in any form, you know how challenging moving forward can be.
Moments of shock and disbelief, to denial and acceptance, followed by anger, sadness, and numbness are all part of grief's daily gifts to us.
And grief doesn't just come from the loss of a loved one. So many of us are in a post-traumatic stress response due to the state of the world over the past few years. Whatever you are going through, loss in any form will cause emotional distress that rocks our nervous system and can prevent us from enjoying our life and connecting to others in a meaningful manner.
As a life coach and an author who writes books on the psychology of happiness and getting unstuck, I've learned some things we can do to make it through the difficult times in life. Without a solid self-care practice and daily self-love routine, the emotional pain would have been unbearable. The goal isn't to push away the pain but to find healing and balance within each phase of our life.
Although grief is very personal and looks and feels different across individuals, we can take some self-care steps to feel a bit more balanced and navigate this challenging time with more grace and ease. These are my go-to tips for this time of year:
Set boundaries and honor your needs.
No one knows the extent of your pain except for you in your inner world, which is why it is important to set boundaries with others about what you can and can't handle.
In my book, Return to You: 11 Spiritual Lessons for Unshakable Inner Peace, I share a process for grieving the loss of a loved one and recognizing that everyone is on their own journey. Not everyone will understand what you are experiencing, which is why speaking up, setting boundaries, and sharing your needs with others are important. Many will carry on with traditions and seasonal demands unaware of the pain you feel inside, so pay attention to what you need and nurture yourself. Be honest with yourself about what you can show up for and what feels like too much. And give yourself permission to do things differently this year.
Give yourself permission to do things differently this year.
Pay attention to subconscious patterns.
Many of us will do anything we can to avoid the heavier emotions of life that often accompany painful situations of loss and trauma. It is important to pay attention to subconscious patterns because we all have go-to habits that help us soothe ourselves in trying times.
Things that keep us from avoiding our feelings include work, people-pleasing, addictions, sex, etc.—anything to avoid the pain of feeling the heaviness of loss. These patterns often mask the pain but will never fully allow us to address and heal it. Make sure you allow yourself time to feel the emotions, in all forms, and be present for them. As you feel them, they will transmute and move through you and be released.
Commit to a daily self-care and self-love practice.
Listen to your body and honor its needs. You may feel guided to rest, take more nature walks, exercise more, or drink more water. Pay attention to your body's needs, and focus on healthy choices to help sustain the transition. Knowing what can help soothe your pain is the key to getting through the challenging moments.
Consider making a list of things that help you connect to the moment and feel safe and secure, such as cuddling with a furry friend, spending quality time with your children, or calling that person who's been on your mind a lot. Mini moments of self-care and reprieve can help aid the process.
Lean into all the layers of loss.
When we lose someone or something, there are many layers to the loss. We not only lose the person, but we often lose our sense of self, even our identity, as we relate to the world in a new form without the thing or person we lost. Everything from the lifestyle we had with them to the moments we will never experience in the future with them, can erode our confidence and sense of security in the world.
Be gentle with yourself in this time period, and feel all the layers of loss. You may not have motivation or any focus. Just trust each day, with time, you will return to yourself and rediscover who you are and want to be in this world. Overall, be kind and gentle with yourself and trust the process of life.
Take care of your mental health.
Fear and anxiety can be overwhelming and cause strong emotions. These resources can help. According to the CDC, some other actions you can take to help you cope with feelings of grief after the loss of a loved one include connecting with other people and seeking out grief counseling or mental health services. You can also seek spiritual support from faith-based organizations, aligning with communities that support and uplift you, as well as reach out for support from other trusted community leaders and friends.
Everyone copes with loss differently, and you'll find ways that are easier or more helpful for you than others. If you are grieving this holiday, allow yourself to feel the emotions, be gentle with yourself, and seek help if you need it.
Shannon Kaiser is the best-selling author of 5 books on the psychology of happiness and fulfillment including The Self-Love Experiment and Adventures for Your Soul, Joy Seeker, and Unshakable Inner Peace Oracle card deck, and the forthcoming book Return to You. She has a B.A. in journalism and communications from the University of Oregon. As an international life coach, speaker, and retreat leader, she helps people awaken and align with their true selves so they can live their highest potential.
She's been named top 100 Women to Watch in wellness by mindbodygreen, alongside Cameron Diaz, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kris Carr and Gabriel Bernstein, and was listed as of the freshest voices in mental health and wellness by Chicken Soup for The Women's Soul. She's been named one of Entrepreneurs Must-Follow Instagram Accounts for Inspiration and Top Facebook Accounts for Daily Motivation by Mind Body Green.
Her website Playwiththeworld.com has been names top 75 Personal development websites and top 100 self-help websites by the institute for the Psychology of Eating. She's an international life coach and author mentor, and a full time world traveler with a home base in Portland, Oregon with her best friend, her Golden Retriever Chance, who she flew to China to Rescue.