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Sharpe-Jefferson: Overcoming Grief during the Holiday Season

By Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson

Christmas is just around the corner. While many of us look forward to celebrating the season with friends and loved ones, for others, the holidays stir up anything but feelings of joy.

Depression and grief are very real emotions people experience this time of the year.  And not only are they real, but prevalent during the holidays.

While some look forward to spending this season with loved ones, others are reminded of their loved ones – friends and family and lovers – who have left in some form or another. If that memory isn’t handled correctly, it can turn into grief. And grief, by the way, is one tier deeper than depression.

Grief plunges a person into a self-perceived pit that can be hard to escape. A person battling grief shows it in their language, which takes on a dark and pessimistic tone. Grief can also be seen in the actions of a person, too, or lack thereof. You may see them sleeping more or skipping out on social events and get-togethers.

The issue with grief is that people get stuck in the past and the current moment they’re dealt through loss. For instance, we know that people won’t be with us forever, but truly accepting it is the real challenge. And depending on the circumstances of how that person died or left us (grief can cover lost love as well), it can heavily shape how we view a time such as this. But there is hope for those struggling with grief.

I already touched on step one which is to simply accept the loss. I know it sounds tough, but we can attempt to avoid much in our emotions and in our minds.

Mental gymnastics is what I call it when we consistently deny or delay the evident. If your loved one has died or if a relationship has ended or even if you’ve received a negative health diagnosis, step one is to acknowledge it no matter how ugly it is because only then can you do what’s needed to move forward.

And as part of acceptance, begin to ask yourself a few questions.

Do I need counseling?  Should I need to join a group or take up a new hobby to occupy my time?  Or can I simply read and study how others have overcome?

Be your own advocate and begin the work to move forward, which only happens when we accept what is.  It doesn’t mean that we like what has happened to us, but we accept it. And the great thing about this action item is that, for some, just admitting that life has changed will move them into another gear.

Next step, engage life again.

If you’ve lost a spouse or loved one or if someone walked away from you, be open to dating again. And if someone asks you out, and you’re comfortable, then go and enjoy.

If you’ve lost a family member through death or other circumstances, continue to love on those who remain. Make the trip. Go to the family dinner. Listen to the stories about your loved one.

 You may shed some tears, but the support, unity and genuine love that you’ll get from other family will support you in unimaginable ways. And most importantly, it may just give you a brand new outlook.

 Finally, give yourself time to heal. You aren’t on anyone’s clock. You don’t have to compare your process with anyone else. Your makeup is different. Your circumstances are different. So, of course, your healing journey will be different.

Draw strength from other people who’ve been through that which is similar, but don’t expect to follow their exact process. You’re an original and your healing will distinctly belong to you.

 And finally, I want you to understand that although grief is challenging, there is help and healing available for you.

Take one step at a time and one day at a time and you’ll look back and see how your story, your challenges and your victories will be used to help someone else.

Know that I’m cheering for you this season and if you need me, I’m just an email away.

Keisa Sharpe-Jefferson is a life coach, author and speaker. Her column appears each month online and in The Birmingham Times. You can contact Keisa at keisasharpe@yahoo.com and visit http://www.allsheanaturals.com for natural hair and body products.