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Getting Through The Holidays After A Traumatic Loss


It can be quite a traumatic experience for a child to discover that people may not be around forever. But in most cases, children find death to be a rather abstract experience. However for older people death can be really devastating.

Losing someone close to us can be overwhelming. We often have such a connection with family, with such close relationships in our lives. Even when a family member has been ill for a long time, it can still be a shock when they actually die.

Alice had this same experience, but the unfortunate thing was it happened right before Christmas. After her mom’s funeral, everything changed drastically! Holidays that had otherwise been cause for celebration, days when she and her mom would go shopping, preparing and planning to make the event “special” for everyone. It was just unbearable.

Christmas, Easter, Birthdays and other holidays no longer held the same appeal. The emptiness around these festivities always re-ignited her grief, giving birth to isolation, loneliness, realization that life would never be the same again. All these forces her to compare her life against others who still had their mom present with them to share the joy of the event and shower them with treats, presents, lovely cards, cuddles, and kisses.

It was difficult for her to join in with the festive spirit, always struggling to feel excited, or enthused. She struggled to feel anything other than completely numb during this period – She could feel the hurt in her heart, such debilitating pain. Holidays were just off limits for her, rather than happy celebrations they had become horrific reminders of a life she once had. Now the enjoyment and happiness of others upset her and in most cases makes her angry: “Why are they so insensitive, didn’t they realize what I was going through?” She always asked herself angrily

And the fact is “They didn’t.”

Actually people who are yet to experience a loss especially during the holiday period will find it extremely difficult to truly understand just how devastating and traumatic the whole experience really is. They cannot read your mind and see into your head to actually understand the kinds of suffering you are going through in your grief.

You get to “pretend” that you’re okay or that you’re just as excited as everyone else, when really you’re saddened by the whole affair or activities. So the question is, what can we do when the holiday rolls in, what exactly can we do to prepare ourselves and those around us so that we can go through the holiday after experiencing a traumatic loss?


1. Expect the old demons to surface; the fact is everything will never be the same again – accept that fact and just be prepared to face the holiday head-on. Yes, the season will bring up the grief and loss, but everyone can try to sprinkle a little bit of joy, smiles and even laughter as you all go through.

2. An important way to get through the holidays after a traumatic loss is to find a really close friend who you can spend the night with. This must be someone who truly understands you, enough to not say anything or even leave if that’s what you need.

3. Avoid overeating, overworking or consumption of drugs and alcohol, basically because this will make you feel even worse at the end of the day.

4. Do not let the cheer get you down. You must understand that it is normal to grief but trust that one day you will feel festive again and it’s just a matter of time. For now take it that you’re healing and even if you may be fragile at the moment, your enthusiasm will eventually return.

5. You need to grief, so give yourself the space to do so. You can sleep in longer, take some days off work, just stay home or even take a stroll if you want.

6. Engage in some extra kind activities. This could range from going to the spa, booking a steam, pedicure, massage to even taking a yoga or dance class. You could also play golf, go surfing, ice skating or spend the afternoon doing things you once love to do (hobbies). You have to be extra kind to you, order food in or take yourself to your favorite restaurant.

7. Be prepared for the triggers. Sometimes other people may start talking about what they are doing with their mom, dad, brother, sister or friend. In a situation like this, your sense of loss tends to aggravate – don’t run away from it, sit with it. Feel into it, that’s the best way to handle such situation.

8. Learn to appreciate what you have. Spend some quality time reflecting on all the good things you currently have in your life. Give gratitude for your life and the people around you.

9. Create your own ritual to remember your love one. There’s no best way to do this, you can simply light a candle, visit their grave with flowers, write a note and send it heavenwards (attached to a helium balloon), or get out pictures from years past and reminisce over them.

There’s a popular saying, “a problem shared is a problem halved” one of the best ways to get through the holidays after a traumatic loss is expressing your feelings with someone. This could be a friend, family member or preferably a grief counselor or therapist who can empathize with your feelings and will not push to get you “back to normal” but will listen to your deepest fears and pains in a gentle, acceptable, loving and non-judgmental way.

For more information or schedule appointment online please our PTSD treatment page or call us at 919-647-4600

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