Surviving a traumatic experience can leave residual pain, suffering and loss for years. It did for me after I was sexually assaulted in 1990. I knew I had an overwhelming sense of loss of faith in the world as I had known it, but it would be years before I connected it to having grief.
For anyone who is experiencing grief, brace yourself because the holiday season of merriment and cheer is upon us and may bring about profound feelings of sadness and loneliness.
Here are some tips to help you navigate this time of year:
Acknowledge the holidays aren’t going to be the same.
Putting The Serenity Prayer in a prominent place and reading it daily is a great way to start each morning. It says, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” It takes courage to try something new. No one says you have to “do life” as you have in the past. How about starting a new tradition? If you know your home is going to remind you of the loss and will make you sad, consider making new memories in a new environment. Take a trip with a friend or family member. Point your compass in a new direction and take a chance you may find some solace and happiness along the way.
Take care of yourself.
There are many things that can numb us and make us forget the pain for a brief time, but it’s never the answer because the negative consequences of alcohol, painkillers and mood-altering substances are greater than the brief lift you may feel. Instead, invest in positive choices for your body and soul.
- Give yourself a gift of massage.
- Practice meditation.
- Listen to your body and mind. What does it tell you it needs? Tune into Yoga with Adriene and select a playlist based on your needs.
- Avoid social media as much as you can. There’s no need to compare yourself to others.
- Fill your body with foods and drinks that will make you thrive.
- Write it down. Start journaling. It will allow you to do a mind dump and process your feelings.
- Spend time reflecting in nature. Leave your phone and the television behind and enjoy the peace and quiet that a brisk walk or jog will allow.
- Work out at the gym or at home. Encouraging the endorphins and adrenaline course through your body will heal your soul, as well as your body.
- Spend time with friends and loved ones – people that you care about and that care about you.
Open up about your pain and suffering.
When you find the courage to “let it out,” you free yourself of the cycle of rumination. When you ruminate, you make yourself more isolated. The goal is to stop the negative chatter and self-talk in your mind and redirect your thought patterns to something more productive and positive. Rather than allowing the negative thoughts to gain momentum, stop them in their tracks. Talk to a friend, family member or counselor who can offer an objective perspective. Be proactive and you’ll likely realize that the troubling thoughts often aren’t accurate at all and make little sense. The best gift you can give yourself is to reach out to someone and share your true feelings.