Kerrin Bain Coaching

Grief: 7 Tips to survive the holiday season

We experience life through the stories we tell of our experiences. Our stories unfold in the present where we attach language and emotions to them which set them forever in our memory. We think of our future and how our life ‘will be’ in light of our stories and so when loss happens and grief rips up the manuscript of our life, we find ourselves at a cross road. We are forced to re-write our story and grief is our partner on the journey as we move towards the emerging story of our lives.

Whether you are far down the road on your journey with loss or just turned onto the onramp, grief is sneaky and can turn up unexpectedly. 

1. Name what is ‘hard’ 

So as you face this holiday season, name what is hard for you. Although the whole season may feel hard, it will help to acknowledge if there are places, events, people or certain days that bring on feelings of being overwhelmed and helpless. 

Write these down. 

By acknowledging and ‘seeing’ what is hard, you will create some breathing space where you can chose how you wish to write your emerging story that works for you.

2. Banish language of slavery

During the holiday season we find ourselves in a whirlwind of traditions and celebrations that we don’t take a moment to consider or question. They are part of our narrative. 

The ways we ‘should’ be

The events we ‘must’ attend 

The traditions we ‘need’ to uphold

This is the language of slavery and with these statements we enslave ourselves to standards that are completely of our own making and choice. 

So each time you hear yourself using this language … Pause … Take a breath … and ask yourself where does this belief come from and is it what you really want to carry forward into your emerging story. 

3. Write a new script

Being joyful and full of gratitude is the emotional script for the holiday season. It is the season for excitement, nostalgia and time spent with loved ones as we bathe in the warm glow of special times… CUT … when loss strikes, the holiday season will never be the same again and a new script is needed. It is time to adjust your aim and write a new script to meet you where you are at with your grief. Ask yourself what is possible for you in this time .. 

It could be some moments of joy 

It could be a peaceful and quiet holiday season turning your gaze inwards as you gather your strength

It could be just surviving and getting through 

What ever it is for you, that’s ok! 

4. Pick your Team

As we experience the rollercoaster of emotions and waves of grief that roll in throughout the holiday season, it is important to realise that we don’t need to navigate this alone. It is time to pick your team …

It may be a single trusted friend or family member

It may be a therapist

It may be your walking, running, swimming or riding partner

It may even bethe barista at your favourite coffee shop

It could even be a podcast or an audio book

So go ahead and select your team, ask for what you need to help you navigate this season.

5. Create new traditions

The holiday season is richly steeped in traditions and rituals that have formed part of our narrative and have defined how we see the world. 

While traditions can provide comfort and peace and can help us feel connected, so too can they cause deep pain and suffering as we experience them in the face of our grief. 

How can you honour your loss and the memory of your loved one during this holiday season?

What traditions do you want to keep, adjust or chuck out the window?

6. Expect the Unexpected

When we can accept that the holiday season or in fact anything in life may not go according to plan, only then are we able to find the space within ourselves to lean towards something new, something different. Perhaps even to lean towards the curiosity of what could happen. Grief doesn’t play by the rules and in the words of Elizabeth Gilbert ‘grief will do what it wants with you, when it wants and in that way grief is a lot like love’.

So we are inviting you to develop a mantra or a practise to give yourself grace when grief slams you against the wall. 

It could be a breathing practise

It could be a phrase or a quote that is meaningful to you

It could be dancing around your living room to your favourite teenage band

It could even be a cold water swim  

7. Pause, Breathe, Repeat

Our western culture is obsessed with being busy and maximising each moment of every day. As we experience loss we often find it easier to avoid ‘being’ and instead fill our time with ‘doing’. In the process we push our feelings aside as it is just easier to keep busy. During this holiday season…

Pause – when you open your eyes in the morning and with intention consider what you need, what will help you feel better.

Breathe – when your grief feels like it becoming too much of a backseat driver, let the air go all the way to the bottom of your lungs and let out a huge sigh

Repeat – anytime and anywhere you need to get through the holiday season