Perhaps this holiday season is the first since a particularly difficult loss, such as divorce, death, or estrangement. If so, proactive mental health approaches may be beneficial. Consider the following if you are coming to your first holiday since a challenging life event:
1. Familiar routines and rituals may trigger unexpected feelings. For example, you may suddenly feel sad after baking Christmas cookies because you used to make them with someone who is no longer part of your life. Identifying and avoiding these triggers before they occur is ideal; however, if you have already engaged in familiar routines that activate negative emotions…
2. …Time is needed to handle these feelings. For a host of reasons, it is best to feel and process, rather than avoid, these emotions. Processing takes time, which is why leaving space in your schedule to work through negative feelings is good practice. A schedule with space cushions may be difficult to obtain during the holidays; however, achieving calendar flexibility will afford you freedom later to work through negative emotions without additional pressure from outside obligations.
3. Replace familiar customs. If holiday rituals have changed because of reasons you did not initiate or want, they can be substituted. For example, if Thanksgiving was typically spent cooking and eating with a person who is now absent from your life, consider instead engaging in leisure activity (hiking, biking, going to a movie, etc.) on Thanksgiving and then later ordering take-out.
4. Feelings are normal. The cliché is true; negative emotions resulting from triggers are normal and expected. Grief is a process. If you need someone to walk through this journey with you, consider contacting Butterflies Prospering Wellness Co. so one of our trained therapists can assist.