Note: This is a list of things that can help with the “holiday blues” and what to avoid. This is NOT to be used as or to replace medical or therapeutic advice.

These are insights that have resulted from my own experiences in dealing with the grief/loss/trauma of losing my children due to an unjust court ruling that gave full custody an alleged abuser, and has alienated me from my children. Please feel free to add your thoughts or self care tips to the comment section below!

Self Care is what you to give yourself nurturing and care. Self Care can be used for a variety of reasons: to help relax, to lessen anxiety, to help cope with a difficult situation, to work on a personal goal…are just a few ways self care can be utilized.

Some Self-Care Tips for dealing with the “holiday” blues:

** 1) DON’T CAVE IN TO PRESSURE, EXPECTATIONS or SHOULD’S. Forcing yourself to do things trigger painful memories, or to act like everything is fine when it is not or giving in to make others happy at your expense is harmful.

DO BE ASSERTIVE to express your needs. It may help to talk with a supportive person (friend, family, religious support, support group, counselor, etc) ahead of time to come up with a plan on how to deal with the holidays or to help you learn how to better communicate and express your needs.

** 2) DON’T ISOLATE OR WITHDRAW. At times you may need to take time for yourself but if you increasingly find yourself alone, avoiding social relationships or feeling trapped by grief, that may be a sign that isolation is working against you.

DO STEP OUTSIDE OF YOUR GRIEF. If needed, seek additional support or professional help. Visit friends or family. Go outside/be in nature. Seek spiritual support. Attend a grief support group or other support group.

** 3) DO DISTRACTION: Distraction helps overcome feeling “stuck”, can help when you are focusing too much on one thing, and can change your mood. Some ideas: Relaxing bath/spa/manicure, Music, Movies, Scrapbooking/Journaling, Spending time with friends/family, Visit park or museum, and Prayer/Meditation, Cooking/Baking etc.

DON’T: Abuse drugs, alcohol, ENGAGE IN RISKY OR UNSAFE BEHAVIORS TO DISTRACT! If you finding yourself in dangerous situations or feel out of control, immediately seek help or call a crisis line.

** 4) DO RE-FOCUS YOUR ENERGY: Grief/loss/trauma drains a tremendous amount of energy and personal resources, and at time can be overwhelming or feel like it is holding you back. Re-focusing involves using that energy in a positive way so you can move beyond the grief (making it more manageable, and giving you more control over your thoughts and emotions). Some ideas: Volunteering, Spending time with pets, Spending time with friends/family/spiritual support, Enjoying a hobby, Gardening, Exercise (Aerobics, Yoga, Hiking, Biking, Walking, Swimming, Dance, Sports etc.), Community Education or other classes, Support Group, Art/Craft/Sewing Projects, Play musical instrument, Cleaning, Going to the mall, Going to amusement park, etc.

Refocusing your energy can also be to take things associated with your grief, loss or memories and re-channel them into something that has purpose or meaning to you. Or to adapt what was lost to a new situation or new purpose.
One way I re-focused: As a mother, I really missed cooking family meals. Cooking was a way for me to share my creativity, and love with my family. I re-focused my cooking energy, that was largely used in grief, and found new purpose by cooking meals or treats for friends/family who were in need or who were ill and then delivering the food. This helped me feel connected to an important part of what made me feel like a “mom” and helped me move past the grief of not being able to cook for my own children because I found other ways I could share, and use my talents.

** 5) DON’T PRETEND EVERYTHING FINE OR NORMAL. This may actually increase your feelings of grief, trauma or helplessness.

DO: BE REAL! Be gentle, and give yourself positive messages. There may be days you do not meet your own expectations, or you are not reaching the goals you feel you should. Let go, tell yourself “it’s okay” and focus what’s important—you! You may need extra self-care during tough times. It is okay to take your time to process, grieve, heal and do what you need in order to cope, and rebuild your life–even if those steps are not the way you used to live life, they are steps towards healing and growth.

** BONUS TIP: CELEBRATE THE HOLIDAYS OR SPECIAL EVENT IN A WAY THAT IS MEANINGFUL TO YOU!
Certain holidays or special events may be triggering or difficult to cope with. Consider honoring or celebrating the event in a different way—one that has meaning to you, and is comforting. Or perhaps this is a day for you to distract, re-focus your energy or do extra self-care. Be creative, and gentle on yourself. Ideas: Volunteer, Light a candle, Release a balloon, Spend time with supportive people, Go on a daytrip, Wrap yourself in a warm blanket or heating pad, Enjoy a special meal or treat, Get a makeover, Go fishing, Go on a picnic, Get a massage, Take time to honor or remember your loved one, Say a prayer, Meditate, Go out for dinner etc.

Grief is only one step along the journey of loss, there is much more ahead. Hurt, loss and grief can be overwhelming but there is hope—grief does not have to define your life, these painful steps ultimately lead towards healing. The loss may never go away or be replaced, but it is possible to lessen the painful emotions, and rebuild your life—even to experience joy again. To find strength where there was hurt. To find hope where there is despair. To hold your loved one close but not be held back. To remember without the painful knife stabbing through your heart. To smile where you once cried. To celebrate a holiday, birthday, anniversary or special event in peace. To reconnect to life. To regain your voice. To find purpose. To re-discover a dream. To dedicate yourself to a cause. To take the next step, and another.

— EJ Perth, © 2013.

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