Grief counselor shares tools for navigating holidays

Grief during the holidays

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - While the holidays are meant to be a joyful time, for those experiencing grief, they can be a painful reminder of those lost.

And with the pandemic limiting human interaction, Diane Miller with Lower Cape Fear LifeCare says the emotional roller coaster is especially disorienting.

“The pandemic has as really impacted people in their grief,” she said, “from not being able to be with loved ones when they die, not to be able to have the rituals like memorial services, like we’re used to, touch — hugging has, you know, that’s much more difficult now — that’s very much been impacted by the pandemic.”

Holiday traditions, such as big meals or opening gifts, can be triggering occasions rather than enjoyable, she said.

“A lot of times there are traditions, there are memories. So those kinds of things can can really be evoked during the holidays, and while we think they’re going to be comforting, they actually can be quite painful,” she said.

Miller said there are ways to reduce the added stress:

  • Keep a regular schedule, and consider downsizing holiday events
  • Get plenty of sleep and eat nutritious meals
  • Set boundaries for conversations and gatherings
  • Stay connected to family and friends, but keep in mind pandemic precautions
  • Limit social media exposure

A big part of getting through, she said, is framing your mindset.

“We want to practice things like gratitude, identifying those things that we’re grateful for; practicing mindfulness, that’s staying in the moment, trying hard not to think about the past and not think about the future, stay in the present; we want to practice patience and kindness that not only helps ourselves, it helps others as well,” she said.

But if you do need help navigating the holidays or any other part of grief, there are resources available:

  • Grief Support:
  • Mental Health Resources:
    • Trillium Health: (977) 685-2415
  • Substance Use:
    • Coastal Horizons: (910) 343-0145
  • If You Have Suicidal Thoughts and Feelings:
    • 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: (800) 273-8255
    • Call 911 if you feel you may harm yourself or someone else

If someone you know is experiencing grief, Miller said the best thing to do is reach out, but listen rather than “fix” the situation.

“We experience each death, each loss differently, even as individuals,” she said. “As a friend, as a family member, recognizing that people are going to be in different places at different times.”

“I think one of the most helpful things for people to do is to just be present to listen. There’s no solution, but just to know that someone can talk to you can be very, very helpful very powerful.”

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