Grief, Loss and New Traditions during the Holidays
FROM CARRIE C. KUBACKI, POSITIVE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT EXTENSION EDUCATOR, UW-MADISON DIVISION OF EXTENSION
As the holiday season approaches and the weather gets colder, it may be more difficult to connect with people we care about. With the COVID-19 pandemic, this holiday season will look different for many Wisconsin families and we may experience grief and loss. Whether we’ve lost a loved one, we’re missing out on seeing family members, or we miss the normalcy or traditions, coping with these feelings can be challenging.
Grief is a normal and natural response to the loss of someone or something important to us. We all experience and express our grief differently. Some common reactions include feeling empty and numb; physical responses such as nausea, change in sleep or eating patterns; crying or anger; or withdrawing from family, friends and common activities.
UW-Madison Division of Extension provides information about grief, including these suggestions from a tip sheet on their website:
- Express your needs. It’s alright to let people know what is and isn’t helpful right now.
- Help someone else. It may be helpful to volunteer or make a donation to a favorite cause in memory of what you have lost.
- Give yourself time. There is no set time to be done grieving, but grief usually softens and changes with time. With time, the holidays will become easier to manage.
- Be aware of your feelings. Allow yourself to mourn or feel sadness. Identify what you have lost.
- Name your strengths and coping skills. Consider other times of loss you’ve gone through. What did you do to help get through it? What skills can you draw upon now?
- Stay connected. Social distancing doesn’t have to prevent you from getting support. Use phone calls, text messages, video chats and social media to stay in touch with family and friends who are positive and supportive.
- Limit your news intake. Spending too much time reading or listening to news about the COVID-19 pandemic can cause you to focus heavily on what you’ve lost, as well as increase anxiety. Find a balance to stay informed without being consumed by it.
- Reflect on the journey. Your loss doesn’t define your whole experience. Consider some of the good memories and the big picture.
- Reach out to others for support. Counseling and support services can be a guide through some of the challenges of grieving.
The COVID-19 pandemic may prevent us from practicing some of our holiday traditions this year. Creating new holiday traditions can help us in our healing and increase our mental well-being. Think about what was important about the holiday traditions you aren’t able to do this year. Then be creative in coming up with new ways to accomplish this while keeping everyone safe and healthy.