Coping with Tragedy during the Holidays

 In Families, Trauma

The holidays have arrived

It’s the time of year when gathering with family begins. The holidays are based on traditions, foods, and festivities that have been happening for generations. Unfortunately, the holidays sometimes come after tragedy, whether the death of a loved one or losing your home from a natural disaster.

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As I explained to WTGS Fox28, Bottling up your feelings and acting as if the tragedy hasn’t occurred isn’t a healthy approach. Sure, it may be managing your emotions or doing the job at first, but it isn’t sustainable and in my experience the quicker you address something, the quicker a solution arrives. In this instance, the solution isn’t to change history but to process and cope with what has already happened.

No matter what the family tragedy, follow the four steps below to help manage yourself between Thanksgiving and the New Year.

Step 1: Acknowledge the elephant in the room. Acknowledge the event and how it makes you feel. Whether this is your first major holiday since Grandma’s passing, or you’re spending Thanksgiving away from your home because Hurricane Matthew destroyed it. It’s natural to feel upset, hurt, and even conflicting emotions. You may be happy to see a lot of your family while at the same time missing someone special. You may feel grateful you have a place to eat while at the same time feeling sad you’re not eating in your dining room.

Step 2: Accept what has happened. Acceptance isn’t the notion that you feel good about or view the tragedy positively. Instead, it’s the idea that you’re acknowledging the event occurred, and that although you are powerless in changing the event, you have great power in how you process it.

Step 3: Sharing memories of old. Once you have accepted the past, you can enjoy with your family and friends the positive memories from before the tragedy. This may include sharing the fantastic and captivating stories your grandfather used to tell, or how he used to always wear sweater vests and dress to impress. Or maybe you express how much joy it brought you to measure your children’s height on their doorframe every year, or that annual family party you threw in your backyard. Whatever the tragedy, remember the positive impact they or it had on your life and share that.

Step 4: Honor and look forward. One of the greatest things humans can do is honor, memorialize, and pay tribute to our history. The food your mother was always proud to make, cook it. The tradition your Aunt started, continue it. Those heights you measured at home, measure somewhere new. To honor someone or something is to keep memory alive.

These are the four steps to managing tragedy during the holidays. After the holidays, if you’re still having a tough time, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional. A licensed therapist will be able to help you process the pain you’re feeling. As always, if you or someone you love has any questions or needs further information, don’t hesitate to contact me.

 

Please let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to help you!

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