Grief and the Holidays
Updated: Jan 10
Grief is the heaviest weight a human can hold. For many, grief can be the most intense during a holiday. This time of year, grief and the Holidays are quite a difficult mix.
"Everyone's grief is their own and there is no timeline for it," says Executive Coach Beth Siegert, CPC, CPRC, ACC, CFAA. "Over the course of a few decades working with clients, as well as observing my own grief, here is my preferred adaptation of the 7 stages of grief."
Shock. Regardless of the situation, it is a shocking occurrence.
Denial. Again, regardless of the situation, it can be hard to believe that this happened.
Anger. Feelings of abandonment and the difficulty of the situation can turn into anger.
Bargaining. This is when a grieving person tries to make sense of death itself.
Depression. A very normal occurrence after someone has passed away.
Acceptance. Eventually, a person accepts that the passing has occurred.
Processing. This is the process of continuing and building a life without the person that has passed.
10 Ways to Handle Grief During the Holidays
First and foremost, to handle grief, one has to have an open mind. Acknowledge that this is difficult and differs for each individual. Festive expectations during this time of year are in the opposite direction of how a person feels while grieving. Here are 10 ways to handle grief during the holidays:
Acknowledge that you will experience waves of grief. Denial does not equal prevention.
Keep an open mind to different ways to help yourself through this difficult period. It is likely you will need several tools or ways to help you deal with grief during the holidays.
Take care of yourself and make it a priority.
Be gentle to yourself. Release yourself from all the "shoulds" and treat yourself with gentleness and compassion.
Ask for help anytime you need it.
If you anticipate something will be difficult, make other arrangements.
Give yourself permission to cry: it releases all feelings and helps regulate the nervous system afterward.
Avoid the "over-doing" response of grief which could look like overspending, over-committing to tasks, trying too hard to have a good time, etc. Essentially, do not hide behind activities to avoid grief. Allow your feelings to arise and be addressed.
Honor your process—respect that this is an important time in your life.
Protect your grieving process during the holidays. If there is a task or tradition that is too difficult for you to handle…don't. If someone tries to "encourage" you to continue the task or tradition, it's helpful to be ready with a phrase such as, "I have already considered it and decided that this is the best decision for me at this time."
"Grief is both a noun and a verb," says Siegert. "While you live within it, you experience it in waves and you don't always know when it will arrive." A brilliant description of grief includes the analogy of a ball in a box that rolls around and sometimes presses the "pain button." For more on this, click here.
When to Ask for Help from a Mental Health Professional
Considering that mental health is part of physical health and that grieving is considered a trauma, noting some things about yourself can greatly benefit your overall health. It is important to be aware of any significant changes in the following:
nutrition or eating habits
"It is often that I suggest that clients seek out other care for specific problems. Sometimes it is for dental care for a persistent jaw/headache issue. Other times, it is for other medical issues where procrastination is an issue. And sometimes, it is for depression. In general, depression is a normal part of grief. When helping a client deal with grief, some typical situations where I would suggest this would be when the person has a constant level of depression lasting four or five months (or less depending on what I observe per individual) or sudden changes in difficulty with grief. Feelings of guilt turning into shame would be another as is taking more time off of work after bereavement leave. There are plenty of other reasons but these are some that come to mind first," says Siegert.
Grief and Difficulty with Work
Resuming the pace of work after the passing of a loved one is difficult. Keeping up the pace while grieving can be arduous. "More and more, this is an issue that clients and I tackle together," says Siegert. In such a situation, I offer my empathy, I remind them to be kind to themselves, and I coach them on how to put into practice other ways to care for themselves. Career-wise, we discuss their current work priorities and I offer guidance on how to handle those while processing grief. Understanding that grief is difficult in any career, I am pleased to be able to offer support, guidance, and encouragement to my Executive Coaching clients," she says.
Grief is incredibly difficult and the demands and expectations of all the moving parts in our lives make it even more strenuous. An Executive Coach will listen with a non-judgmental ear and will provide guidance and tools to help you cope. Directly schedule your 30-minute free consultation or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you prefer to call, simply dial 877.449.6393.
Other popular articles:
6 Top Reasons to Work with an Executive Coach