Holiday Tips from the Calm Waters Counselors
Six Do's and Don'ts of Navigating Grief
Through the Holidays
Dear Calm Waters Supporter,

The holiday season can be a stressful time for many people. The days are shorter, the traffic is longer, and finances are stretched to capture some of that elusive Christmas magic the latest Netflix movie seems to promise.

This time of year can also remind us of our losses . Is this the first Christmas since your grandma died, or the first family gathering since your brother’s divorce was finalized? The grief of our losses, such as a family separation or a death, comes and goes in waves, possibly triggered by a song, a scent, or a holiday family tradition.
So what do you do if you or a loved one is knocked over with a Christmas-sized wave of grief?
Consider Calm Waters' six tips of navigating grief for yourself and others during this Holiday season.
1. Do Be A Safe Place to Share Grief.
Apply empathy instead of sympathy to the conversation. Do not offer a silver lining or try to put a positive spin on the sadness. Rarely does an empathetic response begin with “at least.” ( Don’t be sad, Grandma is in a much better place. At least the kids have two Christmases .) Instead, simply sit in the heaviness with them, silence is okay. For further examples, check this 3-minute clip of Brene Brown on Empathy that is shared during our grief support groups.

2. Don’t Wait To Be Asked For Help.
Bring your grieving loved one a meal, offer to set up the Christmas tree , watch the kids, and grab their groceries for the week. People who are grieving may not be able to do all the things they have done in the past. Your tangible solutions and assistance can and will make a difference to your friend/family on their grief journey. 
3. Don't Assume Everyone Grieves The Same.
Do not tell yourself or someone else in grief what grandma would or would not want you to do, there are no would and shoulds in grief. Not all family members grieve the same way. It is important to respect each person’s grief needs and recognize that they may look different than how you believe it should be. Instead, find ways to remember and honor the person who died.
For example:
  • Create a holiday memory wreath.
  • Write memories on strips of paper and use them to create a paper chain.
  • Buy a gift the deceased would have liked and donate it to a charity.
  • Set a special memorial place at the table.
  • Share the deceased’s favorite food during the holiday meal.
4. Do Make a Plan and Be Informed Before Attending Events .
Planning ahead can help lower anxiety and stress for both adults and children. Make a list of the upcoming obligations, find out who will be there, how long each event is expected to last, and if you need to do bring anything, (potluck, dirty Santa games, etc.) Involve the kids in discussions about what they would like to do, which gives them a sense of control during this emotional time. As a family, brainstorm how you want to respond to questions and offers of help. Once boundaries are decided, share your decisions with friends and family with a brief text or email.
5. Don't Feel Bad For Declining Invitations.
Saying no can be an example of setting a healthy boundary. Your newly-divorced brother may not be ready to be social, and there may be fresh reminders of his loss, such as old family photos. Suppress the urge to ignore the holidays because they seem too painful to endure, instead, decide what works for you and what doesn’t, and communicate your choices.

6. Do Engage In Self-care.
This time of year can be physically, emotionally and financially draining, especially if you’re grieving. Rest, plan for healthy eating and drink water. Give yourself a break, take time to recharge. In addition to keeping your body healthy, you can support yourself or someone else by:
  1. Noticing and acknowledging the feeling
  2. Validating and accepting the feeling
  3. Doing something to positively cope with that feeling. (More adult coloring books or meditation and less spiked eggnog.)

For additional support, consider a support group! Calm Waters Grief and Divorce Support Group orientations begin the week of January 13 and we also offer consultation appointments. Register for your preferred support group or reply to this email or call 405-841-4800 to learn more about support groups, counseling and consultation.

If our holiday grief pro-tips has been helpful to you, please forward it to someone you know who may also benefit!

Thank you,
Heather and Jordan, the Calm Waters Program Team
Heather Warfield, LMFT
Programs Director
heather@calmwaters.org
Jordan Park, LMFT-Candidate
Assistant Programs Director
jordan@calmwaters.org
P.S. If our tips added value to your holiday, please consider making a donation to Calm Waters this Holiday season. A gift of $150 will allow a child and their family to attend one of Calm Waters FREE support groups. Thank you!
Calm Waters Center for Children and Families | 405-841-4800 | Calmwaters.org