20+ Ways to Practically Manage Change & Loss Throughout The Holidays
Jill Johnson-Young, LCSW
Loss & change encompasses jobs, education, career, moving, illness, disability, relationships, pets, birth, adoption, coming out, learning you didn’t have an ideal childhood and the obvious, death. Jill provides concrete examples of how we can set boundaries, create new traditions, and so much more! Jill talks about the importance of keeping memories alive, and ways we can honor those we’ve lost (included our 4-legged family members), and she gives examples of how to help a partner talk about their losses.
- During times of grief, stress, loss, change, etc. it is very likely that we will become MORE sensitive, and possibly reactive, and we may have a harder time managing. This is very normal, and it is to be expected.
- We need to have even more gentleness and self-compassion during these times
- Grief includes, losses, disenfranchised losses, hopes, dreams, change—it is so much more than just death
How to manage those losses:
- awareness of them at the holidays, and finally
- wrap up with death related loss
WHAT OTHER LOSSES ARE THERE AT THE HOLIDAYS?
THESE WERE MENTIONED:
- ‘I think that the holidays bring out a lot of grief for everyone…’
- SUBSTANCE ABUSE AT THE TABLE OR THE TREE
- The drunk relative that nobody wants to be around,
- The opioid epidemic
- Folks drinking to cope with anxiety of functions or the stress of holidays
- FAMILY ISSUES THAT SHOW UP RATHER THAN HALLMARK: when we feel more like we belong in the land of the lost toys, not by a fireplace waiting for Santa with our dog named Spot
- A dysfunctional family
- Grief when your family isn’t large like everybody else’s
- Grief because you’ve chosen not to be a part of your immediate family because of the toxicity in it
- Grieving the family you THOUGHT you had…
- and about how to connect with them despite awareness of emotional neglect due to your high sensitivity.
- Feeling concerned with the upcoming holidays with the new awareness of how your family relates emotionally… it all suddenly feels so superficial.
FINANCIAL STRESS AMPLIFIED BY THE HOLIDAYS
- Grief because you don’t have enough money for presents
- Grief because you don’t have enough food,
- Those issues can cause some of us to avoid holiday get togethers because we can’t afford them
- that might include employee events
- Those that have experienced recent breakups, and this is their first thanksgiving or Holiday without their partner.
- Lost friendships
- Disability especially recently
- Partner who is disabled or have cognitive issues
ONE THING I DO FOR GRIEVERS PRIOR TO THE HOLIDAYS IS PREPARE THEM FOR THE IMPACT:
- EXPECTATIONS- FALSE OR REAL OR SELF IMPOSED, INCLUDING NEEDING TO RECREATE WHAT WAS BEFORE A LOSS
- grief when everybody else posts the holiday party pictures, or you are looking at old social media posts- when things were different
- Shopping, advertising, holiday mailers – the temptation to overspend to make up for what is missing
- The belief that if you focus on the holidays and what it should provide, you will have some type of relief, but most of the time it doesn’t work
- The belief that others don’t experience grief and you feel loneliness
- EXPECTATIONS THAT YOU WILL FEEL HAPPY OR LIGHTER
- You might at times, but if you have had a recent loss or have an unresolved loss it will travel with you to holiday events
- The mix of joy and sadness is normal, but hard to manage unless you are ready for it, and you can balance your energy, and give yourself permission to not participate or to limit time spent out
- Practicing using the positive to create balance- plans for the year coming, remembering the good moments of past holidays or this season
- If you can hold the opposite of both emotions it affects how your brain reacts to it so a lot of times when we feel sad as a family then we try to balance it out by looking at what’s great or what we’re happy for… We find that helpful during the holidays.
- For HSP folks, one person suggested that being able to feel grief and joy at the same time neutralizes some of the wounding that has happened in the past.
DEATH RELATED LOSS AND HOLIDAYS
- Fear of death infringing on happy moments because we are aware of the potential of someone dying
- Managing grief from deaths at the holiday,
- deaths associated with that time of season by proximity
- deaths that happened recently.
- Experiencing grief because you’ve lost someone in the past, especially if it is not a relationship you have finished
- Anticipating someone close to you dying—even if they are in good health
- The fear that you will be overwhelmed with their death
- The fear that you won’t be able to cope
- The fear that you will become so depressed, that you can’t get out of it
- We talk about carrying that person in our heart moving forward, and if possible having these conversations NOW while the person is still alive (if appropriate)
- We have all managed loss
- We have more tools that we remember we do
- We will feel sad, and we will manage
- We can get extra support, counseling, therapy, coaching, join groups
We all need death and dying education. It is necessary so we can know what we see, and that we can manage it when that time comes. We will all lose people we love to death– that leaves only the option of being ready. That, in and of itself, helps ward off being caught unaware and thrown into depression. We know those who are ready and have reorganized before a death are the ones who will thrive afterward in their new life. Those who live a fear of death and will not prepare are the ones who do not fare well.
SO WHAT DO WE DO TO GET READY?
- Plan ahead
- Don’t overspend
- Avoid stores if the input is too much, or too much of a reminder with a recent loss.
- You can order everything, including groceries, online.
- Don’t plan on every little activity.
- Limit them
- Limit time there
- Take your own car
- Look for an exit
- Don’t feel a need to explain
- GRIEF CARD TIME
- SET BOUNDARIES. ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE GRIEVING, YOU GET TO SET THEM.
- PRACTICE WHAT YOU WILL SAY TO THOSE CROSSING BOUNDARIES
- GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO CHANGE IT UP!
- Take a vacation instead of doing what you traditionally do
- Invite new friends over
- Choose to celebrate on a different day, or someone new
- DON’T INCLUDE THOSE WHO DO NOT FEEL GOOD IN YOUR SPACE
- DO INCLUDE THOSE YOU HAVE LOST- PEOPLE, PETS
- IF THERE IS AN ANNIVERSARY AT THE HOLIDAYS?
- MARK IT
- PLAN AHEAD
- REMEMBER THERE IS MORE THAN THANKSGIVING AND CHRISTMAS/HANUKKAH/KWANZA-
- NEW YEAR’S IS EVEN WORSE
- TV COVERAGE OF THOSE WHO DIED- BUT OUR SPECIAL PEOPLE AND PETS ARE NOT ON THAT LIST, ARE THEY?
- WRITE DOWN WHAT WORKS
- WHAT FELT GOOD
- WHAT YOU MIGHT WANT TO DO DIFFERENTLY.
- THAT MEANS JOURNAL DAILY. YOU WILL NOT REMEMBER
- GRATITUDE JOURNAL TO SET YOUR MINDFRAME
- EXERCISE AS YOU ARE ABLE
- POSITIVE INPUT- EXAMPLE: MT RUBIDIOUX, NOT THE FESTIVAL IF YOU DO NOT WANT CROWDS, OR THE FESTIVAL LATE AT NIGHT WITH A FRIEND TO SEE THE LIGHTS, BUT NOT THE CROWDS.
- Wolfenoot – It’s pronounced Wolf-a-noot according to Buzzfeed, and takes place on November 23rd. (If you wish to celebrate, you should be prepared for the Spirit of the Wolf to visit your home. This Spirit will hide and leave behind gifts for you, your children and, of course, dogs. The people who treat canines kindly get better presents than those who don’t, but this gift-giver doesn’t seem to penalize people who are just kind of indifferent to animals. We aren’t sure if the Spirit of the Wolf leaves presents for cats.
On Wolfenoot, you will celebrate by eating roasted meats, because meat is a dog’s favorite food, and a cake decorated like a full moon because dogs like to howl sometimes.) (If you’re a vegetarian, or a vegan, you obviously adjust so that this fits with your values and beliefs)
It feels like a nice way to change the tone– to be grateful and thank our furry friends in any way you choose. It was created by a child in New Zealand, around the concept of kindness.
For the holidays, coping with grief is about being Gumby. Bend, Flex, Change it up. Make it work for you.
WAYS TO GENERATE CONVERSATION
- Is there someone you’ve had in your world that has died that you want to include in our blessing, or holiday tradition(s)
- Tell me about your pets? Tell me who they were
- What part of that person is always going to be a part of you?
- What lessons did you learn?
- Who were they for you?
- How did they impact your life?
Jill Johnson-Young, LCSW is a dynamic and engaging speaker who loves teaching both professional and community groups about dementia, death and dying, and grief and loss. She is the CEO of Central Counseling Services in Riverside, California, where she is also a clinical therapist. She is a certified Grief Recovery Facilitator after spending more than a decade with hospice as a medical social worker and as a director of social workers, chaplains and grief staff. She holds a BA from UC Riverside and her MSW from the University of South Florida. Jill has authored three children’s grief books and an adult grief workbook with more in process, and created Your Path Through Grief, a year-long, comprehensive grief support program which includes resources for therapists.
Patricia Young hosts the podcast Unapologetically Sensitive, and works with Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) helping them to understand their HSP traits, and turning their perceived shortcomings into superpowers. Patricia is passionate about providing education to help HSPs and non-HSPs understand and truly appreciate the amazing gifts they have to offer. Patricia works globally online with HSPs providing coaching. Patricia also facilitates online groups for HSPs that focus on building community and developing skills (identifying your superpowers, boundaries, perfectionism, dealing with conflict, mindfulness, embracing emotions, creating a lifestyle that supports the HSP, communication and more).
My pet is sick: It’s time to say goodbye by Jill Johnson-Young
Someone is sick: How do I say Goodbye? By Jill Johnson-Young
Someone I love just died: What happens now? By Jill Johnson-Young
Your own path through grief; A workbook for your journey to recovery by Jill Johnson-Young
Amazon link for Jill’s books– https://www.amazon.com/Jill-A.-Johnson-Young-LCSW/e/B07NPT5NYQ%3Fref=dbs_a_mng_rwt_scns_share
Leo Buscaglia– http://www.buscaglia.com/biography
Leo Buscaglia YouTube—How to Love and be Loved– https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j8tw9ontdc0
Bonus Episode 21 : I lost my sh*t, and it’s not about the gravy https://unapologeticallysensitive.com/unapologetically-sensitive-bonus-episode-21/
Facebook group Unapologetically Sensitive– https://www.facebook.com/groups/2099705880047619/
Music– Gravel Dance by Andy Robinson www.andyrobinson.com