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  • Writer's pictureDr. Kade Sharp, PhD, LICSW, CMHS, CST, RPT-S

4 Ways to Handle Grief around the Holidays

For many of us, the holidays are a bittersweet time if we have lost a loved one. I wanted to make some space here to honor those we’ve lost and share my heart for those of us that are struggling this holiday season. Let’s take a quick look at four ways we can be kind to ourselves and navigate the days to come.

Set aside space for emotions

If you celebrate with friends or family, you may find yourself back-to-back with events, conversations, and preparation. It’s so important to ensure you have time to yourself to be able to sit with your feelings and memories of the one you lost. Whether this is a planned time to tap out, a signal you can give to a loved one to show you need a break, or a full day among all of the celebrations that you take to rest and recharge, this time is very important and can be healing.

Do something to honor them

If it doesn’t cause pain to view these things, you could bring out photos or items that hold positive memories. You could create a craft to represent them or an altar of their favorite things. A notebook to write notes “for them” while you’re missing them -- or a sketchbook for art about them or memories with them - can be a way of coping and connecting. Baking something they loved and then enjoying it on your own or with others that miss your loved one as well. You could also listen to music that brought the holiday spirit around for them.

Start a new tradition

This suggestion is especially useful for those who may have painful memories tied to the holidays and the one they lost. There’s no rulebook about how to celebrate - you are free to create your own holiday traditions and shape them for what you need during this time. Maybe that looks like not celebrating at all, but instead doing something fun and relaxing like a spa day at home -- or marathon watching a season of a TV show you love. Or maybe you start a new tradition with something you always wanted to do during the holidays but never had the chance to do.

Reach out for support

Ensure that you are surrounded by a loving support system. If you feel comfortable, it can help to let trusted folks know that this time is hard for you and why that is. Connecting with others that have experienced loss and also find holidays difficult can be helpful to share ideas, commiserate, and support one another. If this time is especially challenging for you and spikes your feelings of depression or anxiety, it can take a lot of inner strength to ask a professional for help but can be so impactful.

If you’re in need of support for your child or you're a young adult reading this who needs support, please schedule a conversation with me to determine if I might be able to help. There’s also a wonderful resource in Kennewick, WA for children and teens to process grief called Cork’s Place (through the Chaplaincy.) They draw from Play Therapy, art techniques, and more to create a safe group space. If you personally need support, I would encourage you to look for therapists in the Tri-Cities that specialize in grief using the PsychologyToday or TherapyDen search function.

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