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Holidays: Not Always Bliss

By Dr. Penny Dahlen

Penny is a bereavement counselor at Mount Evans. She has a private practice in Conifer.

Holiday GriefNot everyone enjoys or even looks forward to the holidays. December can be a dreaded time for people who are lonely, financially struggling, don’t enjoy their families, changed their family situation, or have lost a loved one in the past year or two. Depression, anxiety, and grief are normal experiences during this time of year for many people.

If you are one of those people who dreads the holidays and can’t wait until January, I want to share a few tips that might be helpful.

First and foremost, do not judge yourself for how you are feeling. Allow your feelings to come to the surface and realize that they are there for a reason.

Some of the experts say that one tear has enough toxicity to kill a mouse. So don’t shove that back into your body. Cry and release your tears. Tell a trusted friend how you are feeling—or, if you prefer not to share, you might write down your feelings in a journal.

If you have lost a loved in the last year, grief is normal. Perhaps your family situation has changed and you don’t get to be with the same people in the same way for this season. It can be a big transition. Missing the person/people and how things were is part of the grieving process. Allow yourself the tears and pain and be very gentle with yourself. The more you tell yourself that you should not be feeling the way you are, the more in resistance you are of your own process.

I teach counselors in training and often tell them that emotions are normal. “We come into life crying and then spend the rest of our life saying it is not okay to feel.” We are here to experience and feel all emotions.

Take one day at a time and be careful not to think that those special days—Thanksgiving, Hanukah or Christmas—are the only days in the next two months. Each day try to do something that feels good to yourself like reading a book, going for a walk, talking to a friend, writing in your journal, drinking your favorite drink, or eating you favorite food. Now is not a time to judge yourself for little things. Ask yourself, “What is something that is very nurturing to me at this time?”

On those days that may be the hardest, try to plan something that is not too stressful. If you do not feel like going to a party, it is okay not to go. Do what feels right for you, not what is the “right” thing to do. You might ask your inner self what feels best. When you make the decision in the highest good, you will feel relief.