Experts offer advice for Oklahomans dealing with grief during holidays
The holidays could be difficult this year for Oklahoma families spending the season without a loved one.
Many have lost relatives to COVID-19, which was the third-leading cause of death in Oklahoma so far this year, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.
At Calm Waters Center for Children and Families, which offers grief support in Oklahoma City, counselors are seeing almost double the number of families they were seeing last year, clinical and programs director Heather Warfield said.
“It’s definitely taking a toll on our community,” she said.
For Oklahomans grieving the loss of a loved one this year, experts offered tips and advice on coping through the holidays.
1. Plan ahead
The holidays may come with added pressure and anxieties for many, Warfield said. She suggested people grieving make a plan about what they can do and want to do during the holidays, and accept that it may look different from their usual holiday season.
“Maybe you don’t put up as many decorations,” she said. “Maybe you don’t go to all of the Christmas parties, all of the events. Maybe you pick and choose and decide for yourself, what am I able to do this year? What’s going to be the most meaningful for me and my family?”
2. Ask for help
This one is tough, Warfield said.
“We want to be independent. We want to function apart from others,” she said. “A lot of times that’s not what’s the most helpful for us.”
Whether it’s with cooking, cleaning, running errands, accepting help from others can be important when you’re grieving.
“They want to give it, and so it is OK to accept it,” she said.
Taking time for rest and self care is also important during the holidays.
“Self care does not always mean doing something,” Warfield said. “It sometimes means not doing something. Maybe it is, I’m going to rest, I’m going to let the dishes sit, because I need time to just relax and to cope and to process.”
3. Acknowledge the lost loved one
Recognize the emotions you’re experiencing, said Maria Trapp, a clinical psychologist with OU Health.
“I think we have a tendency, because we say it’s a special time of the year … that we try and deny those feelings, which is really counterproductive to our grieving process,” Trapp said.
Trapp suggested that if you’re around loved ones who also knew the lost loved one, talk about them and share your memories of the person.
Warfield also suggested finding a way to honor the lost loved one. That could look like setting a place for them at the dinner table or making their favorite meal, she said.
“Talking about those memories is a really big part of grief and will help you move forward and cope through these holiday seasons,” Warfield said.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Experts’ advice for Oklahomans dealing with grief during the holidays
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