The most wonderful time of the year?

The holiday season is in full force. Menus are being planned for Christmas meals and parties. Our homes and shopping centers are decorated. Many folks are preparing for gatherings of friends and family in this special season. But for others, this is a season of stress and sadness.

Some, remembering loved ones who have recently died, are caught up in their grief. Some, as they gather around tables for the holiday meal, notice the empty chairs and are sad. Still others are going through divorce or a life-changing medical diagnosis. Christmas is a painful reminder that their families have changed.

This is a good time to acknowledge that, despite the mall music and tinseled trees, the season can be the darkest time of year for those who are grieving, no matter the source of their grief. For many people who are feeling some kind of loss, Christmas can be the hardest season of all.

The National Alliance for Grieving Children offers suggestions for anyone—child or adult—who may be struggling during this “season of family”

  • Give yourself and your family permission to celebrate. Fight the urge to ignore the holidays because they seem too painful to get through. It’s important that all have the chance to celebrate the holidays without feeling bad or guilty.
  • Acknowledge feelings as natural. Grief has a broad emotional range. Recognize this and assure yourself or your children that these feelings are natural.
  • Keep—or make new—traditions. Make new traditions or choose to embrace the old as a way of staying connected. Gather the family to decide what traditions to keep and what new ones to create together.
  • Give back. Reaching out to others can do wonders for your mood, and there are lots of opportunities here in the Upstate.
  • Lower expectations. Recognize that the holidays will look different without your loved one. Do what you can—it’s OK to change how you celebrate!

Kathryn Chamlee, SCLPC, SCLMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist Baptist Easley Counseling.

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