The holidays are almost here and for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, they can be very difficult. The holidays are a reminder of what once was, of traditions repeated over years — even decades — that represented who they were — as partners, spouses, adults, children, and grandchildren.
For anyone who has lost a loved one, their journey is filled with many “firsts.” In the first year, anniversary dates, birthdays, and holidays can be especially difficult. There will be unexpected experiences of feeling “flooded” with emotion or the stark reality that their loved one is gone. Over time, with support from family, friends, grief groups, and individual counseling, these symptoms will dissipate. In time, acute grief will transition into an emerging acceptance, and the development of a “new normal.” How long this takes is different for everyone.
If you are coping with the loss of a loved one, here are a few tips to help you through the holidays:
Be patient with yourself, as it may be difficult to make decisions and plans so ask for help
Consider where you want to be at holiday time — at home or staying with close family or friends
Let those close to you know how you are feeling
If you want to stay in your home and have guests visit, ask others to help with cooking and planning
Share stories and pictures about your loved one
Donate to a charity that would be meaningful
Grief support groups can be found through local synagogues, churches, and agencies. For some, being around others who have gone through the loss of a loved one but may be further along on their journey can offer hope and reassurance.
It may be too painful to follow long-standing holiday traditions. Instead consider doing something different — go to a restaurant with friends or relatives, or travel out of town for the first holiday year, to avoid the triggers the season brings with it.
Seek out a licensed social worker or licensed professional counselor who has expertise in grief work.
Remember there are no rules — do what you need to do to get through the holidays with the least amount of added stress and expectations.
Jessica Jarrard is a licensed clinical social worker, (LCSW) and has been working in the mental health field for over 20 years. have a deep respect for my clients' individual experiences, and provide a safe, non-judgmental environment for individuals to develop insight and grow. I know how difficult the first step is, and value your trust in me. I am actively engaged in the recovery community, both personally and professionally. I am also a parent. I believe my experiences have helped to shape me as a therapist, and allow me to appreciate a diverse range of issues, cultures, and individuals. She completed her Master's degree in Clinical Social Work at San Francisco State University. She attended Barnard College, the women's college at Columbia University, and completed my undergraduate degree in Psychology at Sonoma State University, in California.
The field of psychotherapy offers a variety of services. I have worked in acute settings (psychiatric hospitalization), subacute settings (residential treatment), and intensive outpatient treatment settings, as well as maintaining my private practice. As a clinician in a rapidly changing field, I recognize the importance of maintaining a critical eye to my work, and participate in several professional peer consultation groups that meet regularly. As professional colleagues, we provide clinical feedback and challenge each other to be the best in our fields.