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For many, the holiday season is a joyful time spent with loved ones. For people experiencing loss, it can be a painful reminder of those no longer here. After nearly three years of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people are still reeling from losses and emotional turmoil caused by the devastating effects of the virus. Navigating grief and trauma during this season of gatherings and celebration can be challenging.

If grief is affecting your mental health this season, these coping strategies may help.

Avoid overindulging to numb the pain. The holiday season is a festive time filled with opportunities to celebrate. With food, drinks and fun, it can be easy to overindulge. These activities can become unhealthy coping mechanisms and negatively impact mental and physical health.  It’s a happy time but too much alcohol and heavy food can worsen the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Consider alternative activities like watching a favorite holiday movies or trying a new recipe. 

Look for new ways to make this time special. Even though holiday gatherings may look different this year, consider meaningful ways to celebrate while honoring loved ones. If participating in old traditions is too painful, look for ways to make new memories. Grief is not linear and pushing yourself to do something you’re not ready for can make this time more difficult. Taking the time to find new and creative ways to celebrate can make the holiday season a bit more enjoyable and bring excitement back after grief.

Practice self-care. Grief is always hard but can feel especially fresh during the holidays when family and friends tend to gather. Make time to check in about how you’re feeling. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to jump into the festive spirit. Instead, find ways to process your feelings. Taking a walk, listening to music or journaling can help put your mind at ease and benefit your overall wellness.

Reach out for support. Don’t isolate yourself during stressful times. Even if your support network has changed due to a loss, you shouldn’t go through grief alone. Reach out to a loved one, a friend or a licensed professional for help. There’s nothing wrong with asking for support.

Although the holidays are a special time, it can be a sharp reminder of how much things have changed, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Take time to honor your loved ones and feel your grief while making space for new memories and traditions.

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