Guest Post by Maggie Jugon: Surviving the Holidays

In honor of the holiday season, this month’s blog is written by guest blogger Maggie Jugon, a mental health advocate based out of Palmyra. At 18-years-old, Maggie represents the newest generation of advocacy, hope, healing, and recovery.

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After a loss – by suicide or otherwise – the usual holiday rituals and family traditions may feel like obstacles too big to conquer. Shopping for presents, seeing the empty seat at the table, or even cooking the family dinner can stir up a storm of unexpected emotions. Regardless of the time since your loved one’s passing, the holidays after a loss usually don’t come easy. However, the feeling of grief doesn’t have to take over your holiday season. Being prepared and knowing what to expect at your upcoming seasonal event can make this tough holiday season a little more bearable. Here are some tips to help you cope with the holidays:

Go into this season knowing it’s going to be hard. The holidays are a stressful time of year to begin with. Busy department stores, sloppy roadways, and constant Christmas cheer is enough to make anyone feel overwhelmed. Suffering a loss on top of all of the usual holiday stress is no easy task. Remember that you don’t have to pretend that everything is “fine” when you clearly feel differently.

The people around you will understand that this time of year is not going to be easy for you. Expressing yourself is OK. Be mindful of how you feel and take breaks to gather yourself you need to. Take some time for you.

Don’t skip the holidays. Hiding from the holidays is impossible. Even if you stay home alone there will be something that reminds you of the time you spent with your loved one last season. Going out and facing the holidays will help you learn how to prepare for other big events without your loved one. Lean on your support system of friends and family to help you reach the New Year.

Plan, Plan, Plan! Don’t say yes to an event right away. You never know how you are going to feel from day to day and you don’t want to force yourself to go to an event you don’t feel ready for. If you do decide to attend the event, know what you are getting yourself into. Try to prepare yourself for moments you know are going to be difficult. Get a “game plan” in place so you aren’t surprised by the emotions that may come. Have an idea of how you are going to cope. Remove yourself from the room, talk to someone while the event is going on. Even planning the day/night in a different order can all help relieve the stress of difficult yearly events.

Don’t omit your loved one from the season. You were impacted by who they were and what they did in their life. Their humor, laugh, sarcasm, even annoying habits may have made that holiday get together what it was every year. Just because they are no longer with us doesn’t mean they can’t be part of the holiday tradition. Don’t be afraid to tell stories about them and share past holiday memories. The holidays are a time to love one another, express your gratitude for the people you love, and most importantly, remember what the holiday season is really about; making memories and traditions to share and pass down from generation to generation. Your love one made those memories, remember to never stop remembering.

Try new things. Sometimes doing the same old family traditions feels wrong without your loved one. This is okay. Instead of trying to force yourself to do something that doesn’t feel right, try creating a new tradition to honor the loved one you lost. This could be a very calming and relieving way to celebrate the season without feeling like you’re wearing a plastic smile.

For more information on surviving the holidays visit the helpful links below.

http://www.griefshare.org/holidays

http://www.opentohope.com/surviving-the-holidays/   (loss of a child)

http://www.griefhealing.com/coping-with-holidays-articles.htm

And as always, if you’re hurting or struggling, reach out today by calling the 1-800-273-TALK National Suicide Prevention Hotline to speak with someone anytime day or night.

Have a peaceful holiday season,

Maggie Jugon

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