The holidays are a difficult time for people who have lost a loved one– and it’s not just when dealing with a recent death. Year after year, the holiday season can stir up emotions of depression, anger, guilt, and isolation. Some people turn to unhealthy coping mechanisms as a reaction to these feelings, but doing so can lead a person down a dark road. Seeking positive ways to comfort yourself during this difficult time is a better way to get through the season while honoring the memory of a deceased loved one.

Seek Warmth

Curling up in a comfortable seat, with a warm blanket and a hot water bottle (or a roaring log fire if you have one) can actually make you feel better. According to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health, people feel “interpersonal warmth” when they experience actual, physical warmth. Cozy up with warm, comfortable clothes and make yourself a cup of tea or a mug of hot cocoa to help ease the discomfort associated with grief– and keep away the chill of winter air.

Cuddle with a Loved One

Humans need physical contact for happiness. In fact, the full body contact can actually raise levels of oxytocin, reduce the stress hormone cortisol, and increase the pleasure hormone dopamine. Cuddling is actually a natural antidepressant! It doesn’t necessarily have to be person-to-person cuddling to be effective, either. Pets such as dogs have been shown to scientifically reduce stress, boost moods and curb negative thinking.

Enjoy Holiday Decorations

Your neighbours spend a lot of time and energy decorating their homes to spread holiday cheer– so take advantage of it! Taking a stroll around local neighbourhoods during Christmas is a great way to remind yourself of the joy the holiday season brings people. Walking down a street famous for its decorations is a lovely reminder of how a community can come together to spread joy. Plus, getting a little fresh air and exercise is an easy way to boost feel-good endorphins. Speaking of which…

Exercise

Physical activity is a great way to boost your mood. Enjoy the crisp air and soak up some much needed vitamin D. A lack of this important nutrient is directly connected to Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.); something you really don’t need on top of grief.

Embrace the Magic of Cinema

There are two ways to go about this:

  1. Watch all your favourite, classic holiday movies at home.
  2. Take advantage of all the best new releases that come out this time of year.

The movies are a great way to take your mind off things and get lost in the moment. Many families have “their” holiday movie– classics like A Christmas Story or It’s a Wonderful Life. Rediscovering these flicks can remind you of the good times you had with your deceased loved one and tap into feelings of nostalgia.

The holidays can be hard for people who have lost someone close to them, but luckily the season comes with plenty of activities to help them cope. Whether it’s something simple like sitting by the fire or if it’s getting lost in the magic of the movies, there are plenty of healthy ways to deal with the difficult emotions that arise. There is no one “right way” to grieve, so play around with what feels good until things settle down come January.