This time of year often is filled with excitement, joy, and togetherness. But for a lot of us, it can equally be a difficult, dreaded, and lonely time of the year. Now more than ever, this time brings a complicated mix of emotions and situations as the holiday season looks very different than what we are used to.
Maybe it’s the large gathering of family and friends that you’re missing this year, the change in traditions, or you are mourning the loss of someone dear to you. Grief is often associated with and used to describe the response to the loss of a loved one, but grieving is a natural reaction to anything lost. For example, we can grieve the loss of routine, jobs, or experiences. This season or year, you may have been feeling unmotivated, uncomfortable, anxious, sad, empty, angry, etc. What you may be experiencing is a grief response to changes in routine, familiarity, and consistent unpredictability of current situations. Amid the chaos and in the holiday season, how do we find meaning?
One way to help regulate and cope with this new holiday season can be through grounding. With so many things unknown, reminding yourself of the things that you know to be true can help to reorient and bring you back to a place of equilibrium. Identifying truths can be done through the practice of gratitude. It can be hard to think of practicing gratitude as a response to feelings of grief, but reminding yourself of the things you enjoy and are thankful for opens the door to new perspectives and a shift in emotions.
Practicing gratitude as a coping mechanism for grief does not minimize our emotions. Rather, it allows us to acknowledge both the loss and suffering AND hold joy, thankfulness, and compassion in our hearts. The practice of gratitude can be a powerful tool in coping with grief as it allows us to shift our focus and appreciate the experiences that are in front of us or remember moments we hold dear.
Cultivating a practice of gratitude can be in the form of keeping a journal by jotting down a few things you are grateful for in the morning or evening. It can also look like identifying areas of gratitude throughout the day, maybe as you cook a meal, play a board game, or decorate for the holidays. Even some of the more difficult moments can bring relief, joy, and normalcy. By weaving in a practice of gratitude throughout our days and holiday season, we can learn to remember that often our pain, suffering, and grief lead us to find new perspectives, appreciations, and meaning.
Written by: Chardyce Kott, MSW