Being True To Yourself While Balancing Feelings Of Loss During The Holiday Season

Dear Visible Man,
I recently lost a loved one.  This is my first holiday season without my beloved.  I am not feeling the holiday cheer. I feel like I have to fake the “spirit” i.e. jolliness and laughter.  I don’t want to be a downer and rain on others.  Got any suggestions on getting through this?

Lacking The Spirit,  Seattle, WA

Dear Fellow Traveler,
     This portion of the year is heavy on those of us who have loved ones who are no longer physically among us.  As we enjoy time with the living, we can hold tight to our memories of the deceased. There is plenty of understanding to be had in your journey. But first:
  •  Be kind to the self.
  • Instead of attempting to get “through this,” seek balance in your journey.
  •  Embrace your feelings instead of distancing yourself from your emotions.

      As the holiday season and celebrations approach, you may be consciously or unconsciously preparing the psychological self to react to the grief associated with your loss.  There is the tendency to believe that you are alone, even when you are with others.  Rest assured that many are having the same experiences, but like you, may have chosen not to communicate or share what they are feeling. 

      Grief can be viewed as the deep sorrow that is caused by the loss of a loved one.  In anticipating the grief that is coming, the individual can chose to either react or respond.
     When one reacts, there may be a sense of lack of control.  But, should the individual choose to respond instead, he or she may place the psychological self in a position in which he or she is strategizing and thus able to be empowered.
      So how does one respond to anticipatory grief?
Stay in balance (and in tune) with your emotions.
  • Don’t focus on controlling your emotions or how you feel.  If tears are building within, have the willingness to express them.
  •  Don’t “man up”!  Allow yourself to focus on your human qualities.  Understand there may be feelings of disappointment, frustrations and delays.
  •  Be willing to share feelings of sadness with others.  Instead of seeking ways of distracting yourself from the pain, acknowledge and process it. In sharing with others, you are working to let go of or balance the feelings that are there.
  • Give yourself permission to take a “time out” interacting with or entertaining others.  Be willing to give yourself permission to spend time alone with your thoughts and feelings.

Take care of your (physical) self.

  • Avoid overeating & drinking alcohol as coping mechanisms.
  • Eat and enjoy regular balanced meals.
  • Eat something nutritious before attending a social party.
  • Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach.  Be aware that alcohol, even combined with  snacks, can still be dangerous.
  • Focus on rest (naps) and maintaining regular sleeping patterns.
  • Create a reasonable exercise program.
  • If feeling rushed, stop and breathe deeply and slowly.  Take the breath from down in the diaphragm.  This will allow immediate feelings of relaxation.
 Take care of your (psychological) self. 
  • Pay attention to the psychological self.
  • Spend time alone.  Take time for meditation, massage or relaxation.
  • Spend time with friends in normal settings.
  • If feelings of depression or anxiety are overwhelming, schedule time for counseling and reflection with a counselor or mental health professional.
       In responding, be sure to reflect not only on what was lost, but also the joy that you had from the loving relationship. Please keep in mind the following:

“When you react, the situation has a hold on you.  When you respond, you have empowered yourself to be reflective and seek balance in the situation.”

 We focus on the journey and not the destination.

The Visible Man

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