When a Loss Makes the Holidays More Difficult: How to Cope with Triggers

General, Grief & Loss

The holidays are an exciting and joyous time for many people. However, for many others, they can be bittersweet and hard to get through. When you’re coping with a loss, happy events can feel dreadful. Now that the holiday season is upon us, you may struggle to cope with triggers and reminders of your loss.

While there is no way to expedite or ignore the grieving process, there are strategies to cope. You don’t have to live in a state of stress, sadness, or perpetual grief this holiday season — let’s explore some ways to handle your triggers.

Understanding Your Specific Triggers

While grief is a universal experience, we all have different triggers. Depending on what type of loss you have gone through, you may find that some situations are harder to cope with than others.

The holidays may be a trigger in general, or certain things like cooking, opening gifts, or being around loved ones may remind you of your loss. Whatever your triggers are, try to pinpoint them.

By doing so, you can prepare for difficult moments and allow yourself a way to step back if things become too overwhelming.

Be Honest About Your Grieving

Many people try to hide or downplay their grieving as a coping mechanism. While this may seem like a good idea, you’re only doing more damage by repressing your feelings. Instead of hiding how upset you are, be straightforward about it.

If you’re spending the holidays with family, let them know that this time of year is particularly sensitive. Ask that they be mindful and understanding of your triggers, and let them know that you may need to step away from time to time. Coping with a loss isn’t easy, but you don’t have to do it alone.

Practice Self-Care

Self-care has special importance around the holidays. Because this time of year can be stressful, prioritize self-care more than ever. Self-care varies from person to person, so prioritize activities and behaviors that make you feel calm and comfortable. For some, deep breathing exercises help with anxiety and panic.

Try daily affirmations or meditation to help your body and mind stay healthy and at ease. Experiment with different self-care practices to find those that work best for you. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, keep these practices in mind to help ground yourself.

Handling a Trigger in the Moment

While there are general things you can do to improve your mental well-being, it’s difficult to fully avoid your triggers. When you do feel an emotional response coming on, take a step back. Excuse yourself if you’re around other people and move to another room. Don’t avoid your feelings — acknowledge them and understand why they’re happening.

When you’re coping with loss, there are going to be negative feelings. Take deep breaths, refocus your mindset, and try to pull yourself back to reality. Your emotional reaction will pass, and with each time you successfully calm down, it’ll get easier to cope with the triggers.

See a Therapist

Coping with a loss is never easy, and if you’re struggling, you may want to consider seeing a therapist. Therapy will help you pinpoint, understand, and cope with your triggers. Your therapist can offer advice for getting through the holidays. Getting through this time of year can be hard enough, but you don’t have to feel like it’s unbearable.

Don’t push down your emotions or simply go through the motions of the holidays. Be honest with yourself about your grieving, and talk with a therapist to unpack your triggers. The more straightforward you are, the more therapy will help. Remember, even with a loss, you deserve to find happiness — especially around the holidays.

If you would like to learn how grief counseling can help you during the holiday season please reach out. Our offices are located throughout the valley with counseling centers located in Phoenix, Anthem, Biltmore, Paradise Valley, and Scottsdale.   Call us at 623-680-3486,text 623-688-5115, or email info@crossroadsfcc.com. We offer a complimentary 20-minute phone consultation to answer your questions and better understand how we can help you.