The Holidays are typically a happy time for many people.  However, for others it can be a very difficult time.  If you lost someone close during the year, the first Holiday season can be very difficult.  Also maybe the death occurred last year, you can still be grieving the loss of your loved one.  Our society doesn’t really acknowledge grief and that makes it very difficult on the person who is grieving.

Part of the grieving process is learning how to continue your life without your loved one.  This can be a difficult process especially depending on how the death occurred and if you had a chance to say good bye.  Regardless of if it was sudden or expected there is a grieving process people undergo.  There are stage theories about grief, but I encourage people not to worry about those theories, grief is an individual process and you need to allow yourself to experience it the way you need to.

In terms of the feeling of grief, the best way I have heard it explained is think about it as an ocean wave.  You never know when the wave will come in or when it will go out so you just have to experience as it happens.  However, you know the wave will eventually go out so you do your best to deal with it until it goes back out.  However, it’s important to remember it will be back again until you are finished grieving.

During the Holidays you need to take care of yourself and ask others to understand and be supportive.  Maybe you cannot do what you have always done during the Holidays.  Maybe this year you need to do something totally different such as go on a trip.  Maybe you need to allow yourself some quiet time so you can remember your loved one in the way which feels appropriate to you.  The important thing is to do what you feel is appropriate for you.  There is no right or wrong way to express grief at anytime especially during the Holiday Se

It’s also important to remember that you need to be flexible.  You may have a plan for the Holidays which sounds like it will work and at the last minute you discover it won’t work and you need to change it.  If that is the situation, then change your plans at the last minute.  You need to do what you need to in order to get through the Holiday.

When developing a plan include the immediate family because everyone is grieving and you can support each other.  If there are children involved, pay close attention to the children.  They may have difficulty expressing their thoughts and feelings and may be very confused.

Also remember there is no timeline on grief.  So it may take you a year to process your grief, while it may take someone else two or three years.  The main point is do not impose a time frame on yourself or anyone else.  If you notice grief is paralyzing you or a family member, you may want to suggest therapy so they can get the additional support they need.  Again grief is a very individual process so some people may need psychotherapy and others may not.

The main point is to remember this Holiday will be very different and not to put a lot of expectations on yourself.  Do what you can and if you cannot do something do not force yourself.  Do not be embarrassed to ask others for emotional support or to cry.  Cry as much as you need to.  The bottom line is this Holiday is going to be different and you may not be happy and filled with joy.  If that is the case, you are not doing anything wrong.  You are simply experiencing your grief and it is important to allow yourself to grieve.

On last point, some people find volunteering at a homeless shelter or food bank to be helpful.  Helping others and helping others to live without having to struggle can help with some of the helplessness you may be experiencing. Again, do what you and your family need to in order to make it through the Holiday.  Do not worry how others may possibly be judging if they are judging you.  They are not dealing with the grief, you and your family are dealing with the grief.

I have also included a link to a website that provides additional information about grieving during the Holidays.  Having a list to refer back to can be helpful.  Please take care of yourself and family during this emotional time. Coping with grief and loss during the holidays – via @Shareaholic.

Dr. Michael Rubino is a psychotherapist with over 25 years experience treating children, teenagers, trauma victims including first responders.  He has also been working with people who are grieving too. For more information about his work or private practice visit his website or his Facebook page