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Christmas and the holidays don’t bring joy for everyone

Here’s how you can process your grief this holiday season

ROANOKE, Va. – The holidays can be a time to spend with family and friends but for those who’ve lost a loved one, the season can be one of sadness.

That feeling has grown for many this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Thanksgiving and kind of moving through the Christmas into new year’s season can be really hard for families,” explained licensed professional counselor Sarah Harig.

Harig, who works at Family Service of Roanoke Valley, said grief can leave you feeling out of control, so seek out support and stability.

“Creating a schedule, as humans, predictability creates safety,” continued Harig.

For those who have lost someone to COVID-19, Tom Heasley, a licensed therapist and director of the Roanoke Valley Counseling Center, said it can be hard to cope since we’re still in the middle of the pandemic.

Many are also grieving their pre-pandemic lives.

“Even the loss of schedule or of work friends, on top of more other profound losses can really take a toll on us,” said Harig.

She warned that ignoring the signs can have a snowball effect.

“Families might be feeling fatigued, overwhelmed, irritable, have issues sleeping. And even our immune system can be weakened by that. Which is absolutely something we don’t need during a pandemic,” explained Harig.

She said a big part of mental health is about prevention and self-care.

Take a bath, go for a walk with your dog, reach out to a friend or family member for support as it’s the isolation that comes with the pandemic can amplify feelings of loneliness and grief.

Long story short, make connections with those you trust, even if it can’t be in person.

“A call or you set up a Zoom meeting or you FaceTime, but you keep the contacts with the people that are helpful,” said Heasley.

Be kind to yourself, keep your guilt in check, be prepared for possible triggers, but don’t overload your schedule and accept that however you feel is okay.

“Maybe you’re feeling joy one moment and overwhelmed and upset the next. Both are valid feelings and important for us to feel in the long-term of dealing with grief,” said Harig.


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