coping holiday grief

Cope With Holiday Grief & Boost Your Resilience To Stress

By Heather Stang, MA, C-IAYT

Posted: December 21, 2022

This is the time of year when many of us wonder how we are going to cope with holiday grief. After all, the pain of loss overtakes us when we least expect it. As a result, we may feel we have lost control of everything, particularly our emotions.

The key to coping with holiday grief is understanding that you have more control over your mind and body than you think. Choosing one or more self-care techniques that you can practice everyday is the first step towards exercising this control. This does not require a large time commitment on your part, ask that you fix the unfixable state of grief, or master a complicated exercise routine. All you need is 5, 10, or 20 minutes a day in which you can make yourself a priority.

You will find that small increments of time practiced regularly can have long-term effects. The benefits will be cumulative and often exponential.

Free Webinar Replay:
Meditation for Grief During The Holidays
With Heather Stang

The Benefits of Self-Care to Cope with Holiday Grief

You can use this busy, stressful, and often difficult time of the year to learn how to really take care of yourself. Just a few minutes each day doing any one of the self-care practices listed below will boost your resilience—the ability to weather the inevitable grief storms that arise without warning.

Self-care helps you manage and cope with holiday grief by lowering the reactivity in your mind and body. You are basically helping your body-mind help itself. Simply put, these techniques interrupt the fight-flight-freeze response and evoke the relaxation response, a natural antidote to the emotional and physical wear and tear that stress creates. We all are born with the ability to do this, by the way. We just weren’t taught it in school.

The benefits to evoking the relaxation response through things like meditation, prayer, and yoga are vast. Benefits include boosting your immune functioning while lowering symptoms of anxiety, depression, headaches, muscle tension and more. You will also feel calmer, more in control of your own mind, and likely be able to rid yourself of grief-related insomnia.

Self-Care Is A Gift To Yourself & Those You Love

When you learn how to cope with holiday grief you will be better able to care for those who depend on you, too. Self-compassion is compassion for all.

If you are the type of person who puts other people’s needs first, or think that self-care is selfish, know that this timeout for yourself will also benefit others. Not only will you feel better, but you will be less reactive to other people’s moods, increase your immune functioning so you can stay healthy, and care for those who depend on you, such as young children or live-in parents.

More importantly, when you model good self-care, others may take note. They may learn how to cope with holiday grief and build their resilience, too.

Techniques to Help You Cope With Holiday Grief & Boost Your Resilience

Below are just a few of the ways you can cope with holiday grief and boost your resilience.  Give yourself permission to practice at least 5 minutes a day between now and New Year’s Day to help you cope with holiday grief. If you find that spending time with yourself reduces your grief-related suffering, up the time to 10 or 20 minutes a day. You can even practice beyond the holidays.

  1. Meditate – Apply your attention to a single object. For example, it can be a word, candle, or your breath. There are many forms of meditation for grief on this web site, including the free Mindfulness & Grief Meditation Mini-Course.
  2. Pray – Whether you use a scripted prayer or take time out to talk to God, spend some time nurturing your spirit.
  3. Move Your Body – Walking, yoga, or any other form of exercise with focused attention can help shift your mood and decrease anxiety. Even a short walk around your block, or 5 minutes of stretching on a blanket or yoga mat can have profound effects.
  4. Get Fresh Air – Even on cold days fresh air can be, well, refreshing. Taking a step outside can also change your perspective on things, literally and figuratively.
  5. Journal – Writing down your thoughts and feelings in a grief journal can help you metaphorically move emotions from the inside out, create a virtual confidant, and help you record valuable memories you have of your loved one.
  6. Create Anything – Knitting, adult coloring books, playing with modeling clay, and even cooking are great ways to activate the creative part of your brain, which has been shown to decrease symptoms of trauma.

Find what works for you. Stick to it. It may be something from this list, or a tool you already have in your toolkit. Whatever you choose to do to cope with holiday grief, make it a daily practice as early as you can. That way, you can build up your reserves for when the season is in full swing.

Want a few meditation for self-care ideas? Join us for the Free Meditation for Grief During The Holidays Webinar!

Heather Stang, MA, C-IAYT

About the author

Heather Stang, M.A. is the author of Living with Grief and the guided journal, From Grief To Peace. She is the creator of the Mindfulness & Grief System that is featured in the Handbook of Grief Therapies (2023) and is the founder of Awaken, a mindfulness-based online grief support group. Heather also hosts the Mindfulness & Grief Podcast, and offers mindfulness-based grief support online through her organization, the Mindfulness & Grief Institute. She holds a Masters degree in Thanatology (Death, Dying, and Bereavement) from Hood College in Maryland, and is a certified Yoga Therapist. She currently lives in Falling Waters, WV.

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