Many factors make wintertime difficult, including the sun setting earlier, gloomy weather, freezing temperatures, and difficulties getting out and about. The “winter blues” are real, and these feelings of sadness and depression can be intensified during the holidays. We assure you that you are not alone if you feel isolated and lonely.
The fact is, while we often associate death with loss, a painful loss can be anything- the loss of a job, the breakup with a significant other, the estrangement from a close friend or family member, or the diagnosis of a health condition- especially one that results in a loss of certain functions, preventing the person from performing the tasks he or she once could.
Here are a few reminders for you or your loved one if you seem to be struggling with any loss this season:
Feel your emotions, don’t ignore them
Ever hear someone say they feel better after a “good cry?” There is truth to this. The act of crying releases oxytocin and endorphins. Both chemicals are considered “feel good” chemicals and while sometimes you may feel numb after crying for a long period of time due to the release of endorphins, the oxytocin provides a sense of calmness or well-being. Crying relieves stress and people often feel better afterwards. There is no escaping our feelings. Acknowledge them, as painful as it can be in the moment, because this is crucial to healing both mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
Practice the art of saying ‘no’
Many of us like to believe we are invincible and may over-commit to obligations and engagements- especially over the holidays! However, this added stress can have a negative impact on both your physical and mental health. Whether it is committing to bringing a holiday dish, buying that special present on someone’s list, donating to your favorite charity or offering to help someone, it is imperative that you are realistic with what you can and cannot do. Remember that it is ok to say “no.” You must take care of yourself first before you can take care of anything or anyone else.
Set realistic expectations for yourself and others
Being realistic with expectations also goes for the people in your life, specifically when it comes to family dynamics. To avoid getting let down, do not impart unrealistic expectations onto others who may not be able to live up to the standard you have set or who may not be able to treat you the way you hope they would. It is important to see things and people for exactly as they are and accept the reality (even if it is different than what you would have hoped for).
For a lost loved one, incorporate them in your holiday traditions or set up a special area in your home dedicated to them
There is no better way to honor a lost loved one than to keep their legacy alive. There are many ways you can do this such as setting up an exclusive area of your home with photos and perhaps some of your loved ones cherished belongings- like your own personal shrine! Many people will even include a small candle here and light the candle when they want to feel close to their loved one. It’s a beautiful way to honor and remember this special person and it can bring some comfort and relief to the surviving spouse, relative or friend. Similarly, during the holidays, just because someone is no longer physically present, their spirit is always there. There are a variety of ways of incorporating your lost loved one in your holiday traditions but one of the most popular is either leaving a place setting at the table for them and lighting a candle with their picture next to it; or setting up a separate area where surviving loved ones can pay homage to this special person who has passed.
Consider a donation in your loved one’s name or a memorial gift
Donating is a small act with a big impact- with no amount being too big or too small.
If a friend or family member is struggling with life-altering health diagnosis, it is always nice to donate to a charity that provides support and resources for that disease or condition. Letting your family member or friend know that you did this will also mean so much to them.
For a loved one you have lost, what were they passionate about? A beautiful way to continue their legacy for the greater good is to donate to a verified charity that aligns with their passion.
Forge onward- there is a reason the rearview mirror is so small!
The best thing you can do when experiencing an emotional or physical loss is to take time to acknowledge your feelings, experience the feelings and then, when you are ready, try to regain mental clarity by putting together a plan of how to move forward. This could mean devoting time to create a shrine in your home to honor that special someone who passed, updating your resume to try to land the job of your dreams, taking a class to hone a skill that you’ve always wanted to learn, read self-help books to guide you on your emotional healing journey, practice journaling, relax with adult coloring books to incorporate some self-care into your schedule, continue therapy or get a therapist etc. Surround yourself with the people and things that bring you joy and the strength to move forward.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
This requires self-awareness and asking for help may feel like you are “imposing” but honestly, you would be surprised by how many people really would be happy to help! Whether assistance comes from a family member, friend, coworker, support group or a professional, it is always best to ask.
Help is just a call or click away!
We have all experienced great loss in our lives, and we hope you can remember that as isolating as it feels to process grief, you are not alone. Prioritizing our mental health is just as important as our physical health and there are many great resources available if you are working through processing grief or just trying to navigate through a difficult time of painful loss in your life. It is always best to discuss how you’re feeling with your Primary Care Physician for formal guidance but here are a few recommended resources we would like to share:
Find a licensed therapist
If you do not want to ask family members or friends for recommendations for therapists, you can search for a professional in your area on Psychology Today or Find a Therapist and not only will you be able to see which clinicians are closest in proximity to you but you will be able to see their specialties and bios to help you decide who may be the best fit for you.
You can also ask your Primary Care Physician if they can make a recommendation for a therapist in their network. PCP’s are always happy to help guide you in getting the help you need.
Your insurance provider is also a resource
“Most mental health services are delivered in outpatient and community settings paid for by insurance, including MassHealth. If you have private health insurance, contact your insurance provider (the number on the back of your health insurance card is best) to see what services might be available to you through your provider.” – https://www.mass.gov/guides/finding-mental-health-support-in-massachusetts
Join a support group
Websites like GriefShare or Care Dimensions make it easy to input your zip code and find local support groups and their meeting times and locations so that you can join in-person. However, if you are more comfortable with virtual meetings, some of those same groups will offer virtual sessions as well or you can download the AMF App for full access to grief and loss tools and resources right at your fingertips!
Good reads and FREE online tools