Grief is something many of us have experienced. In fact, many of us have lost loved ones this past year due to COVID-19, natural disasters, or another tragedy. Spending time with family during the holidays can often magnify the loss we feel and leave the moments we want to spend with loved ones clouded with heartbreak. Even though everyone grieves differently, there are ways to lighten your sorrow this holiday season.
Each person manages grief differently; however, most people follow a similar, non-linear cycle consisting of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. People experience these four stages uniquely. Recognizing what stage of grief you are in can help the grieving process. Some might feel a large amount of anger about their loss, while others may experience greater depression or denial. It’s important to understand that there isn’t just one way to grieve and accept that our way may differ from that of our family or friends. Even still, each stage of grief is valid and deserving of respect and empathy.
There are many exercises that can help those who are grieving. One way to help yourself while you grieve is to make an effort to acknowledge your feelings. Oftentimes, it seems natural to push aside what we feel, but this can end up hurting us in the long run. Grief is a natural process that many of us go through and our feelings during this process are not something that should be disregarded. Try to maintain a normal routine and don’t be afraid to ask for support from close friends, family or a trained professional.
Grief can transition into affective ailments and sometimes may require the help of a trained professional. If you are overwhelmed with feelings sadness or anger that don’t go away within a month’s time, it may be time to seek help. Seeking professional help is also a good idea if you notice signs that your grief is leading to thoughts of suicide or depression. Signs can include self-isolation, lack of motivation, changes in appetite or sleep, apathy, and hopelessness.
Grief can not only affect you, but the people around you. It is often vicarious. Taking care of others during the grieving process can oftentimes lead to feelings of grief from the care giver.
“It’s instinctive human nature to empathize by putting ourselves in others shoes,” said Sherrard Marrow, LCSW, CCTP of TPMG Behavioral Health. We often want to reach out and help our loved ones through their grief, especially around holiday times when family is closer. One of the most effective ways to help a family member or friend deal with their loss is to simply validate their current emotions. Grief is not something that’s easily discernable to the naked eye. It’s a process that happens primarily internally, which can make us feel like our feelings are real or valid. Try not to pry about the occurrence or ask too many intrusive questions. Instead, focus on the individual grieving and communicate empathy and understanding towards their experience. You can demonstrate your support by visiting your friend or family during the grieving process, talking with them, or even helping with tasks or chores.
Children can also experience feelings of grief around holiday times. Talking with your children about their grief could be helpful for their healing process. Depending on your child’s level of maturity and understanding of death, this time can be very confusing. Consider taking an abstract approach when discussing grief with younger children, using storytelling or religious aspects to communicate what has happened and help answer their questions. Emotional tolerance is the most important thing to keep in mind when communicating grief to children. If you want to learn more about how to have difficult conversations like these, consider talking with a professional about the best approach.
No one should have to suffer through their grief alone this holiday season. If you’re experiencing the loss of a loved one and are seeking a trained professional, consider contacting a trained TPMG Behavioral Health specialist.
About Sherrard Marrow, LCSW, CCTP
Sherrard Marrow, LCSW, CCTP is a licensed clinical social worker with experience in mental health illnesses, substance abuse, and emotional disorders. As a behavioral therapist, Sherrard uses his varied experience to provide inpatient interdisciplinary treatment, crisis counseling, substance abuse counseling, and treat individuals suffering from trauma, anxiety, and depression. Through his knowledge of psychosocial functioning, he integrates therapeutic interventions using evidence-based practices. Sherrard primarily works with adolescents and adults and has a special interest in treating trauma and substance abuse cases.
Sherrard joined TPMG Behavioral Health in Newport News in 2021.