By Kimmi Herring
Through the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all experienced some version of loss. Many of us have lost friends and loved ones to the virus itself. Others have lost a sense of community as lockdown restrictions hindered our ability to come together, socialize, and create meaningful connections. And we must also acknowledge that Black communities and communities of color have experienced these losses at higher rates in addition to an increase in violence that stems from systemic racism.
At Safe Horizon, we understand that everyone experiences and processes loss in their own unique ways. Our boroughwide Community Programs support all who are impacted by violence in their communities by providing resources such as advocacy, assistance applying for crime victim benefits from the NYS Office of Victim Services, case management, and grief counseling.
For anyone dealing with an illness, grief, or the loss of a loved one, the holidays can be a time of sadness, pain, anger, or dread. It can feel like the most isolating time of year, be difficult to cope, especially when you see and hear holiday happiness all around you. This year the stakes are higher in so many ways. If you are interested in getting help from our Community Programs, we are providing remote services to clients in all five boroughs. Please visit our emergency page to find your borough or use our virtual chat platform SafeChat to reach us directly.
If you are not ready to reach out for help, here are some general tips you can use to cope with loss during the holiday season. For more self-care tips, you can read this blog post by my colleagues.
Five Tips to Help You Cope with Loss During the Holidays and Through COVID-19
- Give yourself permission to feel whatever it is you are feeling. You do not have to feel a certain way or do certain things to make the holiday “normal.” If you feel angry, allow yourself to vent; if you feel sad, let the tears fall. Crying is not a sign of weakness; it is a part of grief and grief is a part of healing. You may experience both negative and positive feelings while grieving during the holidays and that is OK. All feelings can coexist, and it does not mean you are not grieving the loss of a loved one if you allow yourself to experience some element of joy. Be kind and gentle to yourself.
- Weave flexibility into your holiday plans. You have the choice to make space for yourself to step in and out of any plans you choose – when possible communicate your plans and decisions with your loved ones ahead of time. Identify a list of coping skills to use whether you are at home or in a social setting which could be helpful when grief hits you unexpectedly. Some examples of coping skills are deep breathing, holding a small sentimental item to ground yourself, taking a walk, yoga, journaling, listening to music, seeking support, and reciting positive affirmations or prayers.
- Surround yourself with supportive people. They should be people who you feel comfortable with, who you trust witnessing your most vulnerable moments, and who can help support you through your time of need. Also, remember that your grief may look and feel different from other family members.
- Honor Old Traditions, Honor Memories, and Create New Traditions. It can be helpful to continue with old traditions that existed to honor and celebrate the individuals who are no longer here. This is a helpful way to keep their memory present. Creating new traditions can also be healing for some individuals who are grieving. Creating new memories does not erase old memories. It is okay to find ways to balance old and new memories. Let family and friends know whether or not you’re comfortable talking about your loved one.
- It is important to seek support from friends, family, co-workers, and professionals if needed. The holidays can bring up many complicated feelings whether you have lost someone close to you or not. It is completely normal and can be helpful to seek services from a skilled professional.
One last tip – please know you are not alone. If you need to talk, we are here to listen. Give us a call. Safe Horizon’s Hotlines operate 24-hours a day, even on holidays. Your call is confidential. Call us at 1-800-621-HOPE (4673).