Holiday Grief

Coping with grief during the holidays.


The winter holidays are upon us. For many it is a season of family, festivities, wonder, hope and joy. For others it is a time of profound sadness, loneliness, anguish and grief.

Holidays often magnify the grief experience; feelings are more tender and the pain seems more real. If the grief is new, the holidays can be excruciating. As the holidays approach, those who have experienced a loss may be dreading the experience. The reality is that the anticipation of any holiday for those in grief is generally much worse than the actual holiday.

Additionally, there is generally increased stress for anyone over the holiday season: decorating, socializing, shopping, cards to send, additional commitments, financial concerns. Add a dose of grief, and the stress can be intolerable.

Grief is the normal process of reacting to a loss. The loss may be physical (such as a death), social (such as divorce), or occupational (such as a job). Emotional reactions of grief can include anger, guilt, anxiety, sadness, confusion, inability to concentrate, numbness, difficulty making decisions, nightmares, irritability, apathy, loss of self-esteem and despair. Physical reactions of grief can include crying, shortness of breath, muscle weakness, tightness in the throat and chest, digestive problems, dry mouth, feelings of emptiness, disorientation, sensitivity to noise, change in sleeping and eating patterns, an inability to swallow, or illness.

Grief is a universal and unavoidable aspect of life; at some point everyone grieves. As an officer, you know this all too well. You witness grief on a daily basis. When an officer is killed in the line of duty, no matter where in the country, all officers grieve.

You may not be experiencing a sense of loss, of grief; but someone you know is. It may be a friend who lost a parent, a relative who divorced this year, a partner whose son is fighting in Iraq, the father of the 16-year-old who committed suicide, the wife of the fatal traffic collision victim, etc. It is okay to reach out to someone who is grieving, lend an ear, offer support, or even share the following tips on how to survive this season.

12 Tips for Coping with Holiday Grief

There is no right or wrong way to handle the season or any particular day. When someone is grieving it is important that they find ways to care for themselves as well as learn how to ask for support. These tips are for those who have lost a loved one through death. They can be modified and related to other losses, such as the loss of a relationship. The following guidelines may help a grieving individual with the holidays. Some may wish to follow family traditions to help keep the memories of their loved ones alive.

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