“I lost my husband three years ago. He died not at all near the holidays, but I found this time of year the most difficult to get through. The traditions, the family time, even the weather reminded me of him, and even after I had made it through the grief cycle and was feeling better, the holidays hit me hard every year. And I don’t mean I felt melancholic starting in November, I mean I was steeped in full-on depression for 2+ months. I needed help focusing on the positive feelings the holidays bring instead of the sadness.” – Gloriana, 35
Whether you have just lost someone recently or some time has passed, grief can rear its ugly head around the holidays. Come Thanksgiving, we want to help you be focused on gratitude and good memories. Grief can hijack happy times by replacing thankfulness with despair. We have a few suggestions to help your narrative be different from Gloriana’s.
Fill your Life with Happy Influences
When I am sensitive or prone to sadness, watching a depressing TV show or reading a heavy book can send me into a lasting funk. Because I know the hard times come near the holidays, I purposefully fill my life with happiness. I pack my schedule with activities for kids or grandkids. I read positive, uplifting books and listen to empowering podcasts during my commute. I remove temptations (like my wedding video) from the house until I can handle them responsibly again. Don’t open yourself up to that monstrous grief when you are most vulnerable to it!
Check in with your Counselor
Maybe this doesn’t apply to you as specifically as it does to me, but I stopped seeing my therapist regularly about 2 years after my husband died. I felt able to cope and ready to move on with my life. But around the holidays, I make one or two appointments with him just to check in and re-assert my control over my mindset. Talking through my anxieties helps me process them, and crying to a counselor once helps me feel validated, my emotions expended, so I can get it out of my system and then go back to my happy, coping life.
You may miss someone very much, and those painful feelings come in waves and feel overwhelming at times. But you also had the privilege of knowing them, and those feelings are buried somewhere inside you. Beneath the pain (sometimes far beneath) is a cache of gratitude for the experiences you had together. Turning grief into joy is all about learning how to access that gratitude and focus on it. No matter how lost in dejection you may feel, it is possible for you to dig deeper to find those small moments you keep hidden when you’d rather give in and be sad or angry. You have the will and the power to break the grief cycle, so choose to find the joy you keep locked away instead.