Navigating Difficult Feelings During the Holidays: A Simple Guide

elissa swihart guided mindfulness hannah chijioke-davis healing holidays loss & grief Nov 27, 2023

The holiday season can be tough if you're feeling sad or dealing with grief. Hi there, I'm Coach Hannah, and I'm going to share some simple ways to navigate difficult emotions during this time of year.

I remember our first holiday season after losing my husband. I felt lost - I didn’t know how to celebrate or what to expect of my emotions and how I would be able to cope. I remember my therapist encouraged me to do something different that year and create new traditions for our family. We celebrated Thanksgiving with family, but I didn’t cook that year. And for Christmas, we ended up going to Disneyworld, something my husband had always wanted us to do as a family. We called it our “daddy trip” and it was truly a magical and healing experience. And although there were definitely multiple breakdown/ugly cry times during that holiday season, we also were able to experience beautiful times of joy, laughter, and hope. We ended up doing a mix of new and old, creating special memories and new traditions that brought joy and healing.

 I’ve had to use these same tips and techniques as I have navigated the loss of my dad and my sister in the past few years. The pain is still there, and tears may come, but we focus on remembering special memories and enjoying the present with a grateful heart for each moment with loved ones.

Recognize and Make Room for Your Feelings

First things first, it's totally okay to feel sad during the holidays. If you've lost someone special or you're going through a tough time, it's important to acknowledge those feelings. It's okay not to be super cheerful all the time, especially when everyone else seems to be.

Give yourself permission to grieve. Find a quiet spot where you can think and remember the loved one you've lost. You could light a candle or create a small memorial to honor their memory. It's a simple way of giving yourself space to feel what you need to feel.

Today, Coach Ellissa has provided a guided mindfulness to support you. Take A Listen!

Mindfulness, as demonstrated in this guided exercise, is beneficial for handling grief during the holidays by providing tools to confront challenging emotions:

1. Grounding in the Present: By anchoring attention to the present moment—sensations, sounds, and surroundings—a sense of stability is established.

2. Acknowledging Difficult Feelings: Encourages the recognition and acceptance of challenging emotions associated with past experiences, fostering a non-judgmental attitude towards these feelings.

3. Breathing Through Discomfort: Utilizes the breath as a tool to navigate emotions, inhaling calm and exhaling tension, allowing individuals to stay present and manage discomfort.

4. Cultivating Self-Compassion: Promotes self-kindness and acknowledges the validity of emotions, encouraging individuals to treat themselves with the same compassion they would offer a friend.

5. Connecting with Support: Encourages envisioning a supportive network, allowing for a sense of comfort and understanding during challenging times.

By practicing mindfulness, individuals increase their capacity to tolerate and move through grief during the holidays, fostering resilience, self-awareness, and self-compassion to navigate these emotional periods with greater understanding and strength.

Create New Traditions

Holiday traditions can be hard when they remind you of someone who's not around anymore. So, try making a few new ones in their honor. It could be something as simple as cooking their favorite meal, playing their favorite game, or doing something special to remember them. Making new traditions helps you keep their memory alive in a positive way.

Talk to Someone

Don't go through it alone. Talk to your friends or family about how you're feeling. They might not know what to say, but just having someone to listen can make a big difference. If it's too hard to talk to people you know, think about talking to a counselor, therapist, or one of us here at the coaching collective. We want to help and can offer support.

Take Care of Yourself

During the holidays, it's easy to forget about taking care of yourself. Make sure you're getting enough sleep, eating good food, and doing things that make you happy. It could be going for a walk, reading a book, or watching a favorite movie.

Set Some Limits

It's okay to say no sometimes. If going to certain events or doing certain things feels like too much, it's okay to take a step back. Let people know what you need and don't be afraid to set some boundaries. Your well-being is important, and people who care about you will understand.

Find the Good Stuff

Even when you're feeling sad, there are still good things happening. Maybe it's spending time with friends, seeing beautiful lights or decorations, or just having a cozy evening. Try to focus on those positive moments. They won't make the sadness go away, but they can help balance things out.

Remember One Step at a Time

Lastly, remember that the holidays, just like everything else, don't last forever. It's okay if you're not feeling better right away. Healing takes time, and that's totally normal. So, during this holiday season, be kind to yourself. Take things one step at a time and know that you're not alone. We are sending you lots of care from all of us here at the coaching collective and hoping you find some peace during this time. Remember, it's okay not to be okay, and you're doing great.

xo, Coach Hannah

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