How to Cope with Grief, Loss, and Separation During the Holidays


For many of us the holiday season starts right after Halloween through the first of the New Year.  We start our holiday lists and planning for big family meals, gathering lights and decorations from our garages, while anticipating and looking forward to those moments of exhilaration and frenzy of seeing people we don’t see all year long. Whether we like it or not we are being bombarded and inundated earlier and earlier in the year through television and other media to prepare for the holiday season.

But for many people this season of the year is not one he/she looks forward to coming. Instead it is experienced with dread and creates a season of sadness and anxiety.  If this isn’t you and you actually look forward to the season with joy and gladness, perhaps this article will help you understand that there are people in the world who suffer with depression, anxiety,  unresolved grief and bereavement and the expectations and traditions that come with the holiday season for many are just too much to handle.

Often we give to charities and the less fortunate this time of the year in the spirit of gift-giving, but there are another group of people who suffer emotionally and spiritually and there are no gifts that can fill that void.
As a psychotherapist working with people who are burdened by the holiday season, my goal is to help them re-define what the holiday season means to them and to facilitate a corrective emotional experience “if you will”  that replaces (at least metaphorically) what has traditionally been a season of emptiness and re-traumatization of past hurts, regrets, and losses.

First, I ask individuals to consider creating new traditions and holiday rituals with friends and family.  This will require a working through of the past and being able to let go of and surrender old ideas, traditions, “ways of doing things” from old family rituals.  Some of those traditions and rituals are tied to past abuses and hurt.  One client started with replacing old and broken tree ornaments and with her children hand-made new decorations that replaced old ones that reminded her of the absence of a healthy holiday when she was a child.

Another idea is to re-define who your family is to you.  There are people who do not have close or extended family members due to past abuse, loss through death or separation, or people have felt hurt and abandoned by family and stopped talking to each other.  If every effort has been made to repair injured relationships, this may be the time to take new friends and acquaintances up on the offer to have dinner at their homes; or to use this time to spend quality time with families and individuals that are less fortunate. Giving to others during this season will take the focus on what you don’t have and fill you internally with what happiness you can bring to others.

Last, remember it is for a season.  Four months are not a lifetime and that each year it can get better.   Try to avoid getting caught up in the whirlwind of expensive gift-giving and the stress of seeing other people being happier than you perceive your life.  Focus on what blessings are good in your life and remember to breathe, live well (healthy), laugh often (because life is too short), and love much (learn to love yourself)!

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About Angela Clack

Dr. Angela Roman Clack is a Psychologist and Licensed Professional Counselor practicing in New Jersey. Practicing in the field of mental health for over 15 years, Dr. Clack has developed a specialty in working with women with emotional and physical health issues as well as interpersonal/interpersonal distress. Dr. Clack is a Certified Women’s Empowerment Coach and Consultant. She seeks to empower and help women live their truest expression of themselves, embrace their imperfections, love themselves and to remove self-imposed barriers that get in the way of personal and professional success.

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