The holiday season can be joyful, exciting, heartwarming, and fun. It can also be incredibly stressful, lonely, and overwhelming. We feel the need to be happy, because that is what is expected. However, the holidays can also be a challenging time from those who struggle with depression. Further, those who have lost a loved one might experience escalated feelings of grief and longing during what is considered precious family time. The space where a loved one once sat now feels like a giant void, one that no gift, song or holiday tradition can fill.
Depression is one of the five stages of grief, and many people who struggle may enter the holidays with heightened symptoms of depression. So for those facing the holidays without a loved one, whether it is the first time or the fiftieth, it is ok to feel your loss. While depression is a commonly accepted form of grief, it might become overwhelming as we become more emotional, more tearful, and more aware of our loss. Our emotional resilience is likely at an all-time low, as is our guilt for feeling this way around “the most wonderful time of the year.”
Here is what I’ve learned: we need to be gentle with ourselves as well as with our other loved ones who are also feeling this loss. There’s a saying that explains why grief can be so difficult: “As much as you love, it’s as hard to heal.”
Here are some tips that may help get through a difficult holiday season.
Communicate: Share with your circle what you are feeling. Be honest and admit that with the holidays and loss comes some sadness. Talk about your loved one and reflect on warm memories. The best way to keep their spirit alive is by sharing it with others.
Traditions: Keep precious traditions alive. Take the time to honor your loved one and remember the role they played in your celebrations.
Do something for others: Sometimes the act of doing a good deed for someone else helps you to feel better. Make a donation in your loved one’s name, practice a random act of kindness, or volunteer for a cause that has meaning to you and your family.
Permission to feel: It is ok to be sad, have bursts of grief, or even cry. Embrace the feelings and release them. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your family, friends, or whoever is your safe support system. At the same time, it is also perfectly fine to laugh and enjoy the holidays without guilt.
My hope is during the holiday season you find moments of peace, comfort and joy. Don’t create unrealistic expectations that exacerbate your depression. May you get through the tough days and find happiness in the little things. Remember, grief is the price for love.
Lisa Honcharuk, Marketing and Engagement Manager