Celebrating when you're grieving a loved one can be heartbreaking. Whether you've lost someone 10 weeks or 10 years ago, the grieving process tends to become especially difficult around holidays.

"We bereave for our beloved dead every single day," Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, board certified in bereavement trauma, told The Huffington Post. "Holidays and special occasions make their absence even more conspicuous."

Culturally, we place special weight on these calendar markers, and they can make it "very easy to get caught up in what it means that the person's not there," adds Alena Smith, a grief and trauma psychotherapist.

The spring holidays, in particular, are family-focused and symbolically centered on rebirth, renewal and growth. This is a time, as Rob Zucker, grief counselor, puts it, "when the whole world is waking up from winter -- and all of those spring cliches." But when you're grieving, it can be difficult to get on board: for you, this may be a season in which you're feeling burdened by the pain of your loss. And that can be compounded when you're surrounded by others who are filled with the energy associated with this time of year.

Grievers often struggle with internal questions that sometimes don't seem to have answers during the holidays: What if I want to be alone? What if I can't hold it together? Many who consider themselves spiritual may even begin to question their faith. Zucker says this is common: people ask, What does religion mean to me now? Can I be celebratory and angry at the same time?

To start, it's key to remember that grievance is a natural and necessary process. Bereavement does not have an appropriate or allotted time frame; how we grieve is incredibly personal. But there are some ways we can make grieving during the holidays more manageable. We can hold on to our heartache while simultaneously remembering our loved ones, engaging in laughter and participating in joy. Grief may never go away -- "it is the price we pay for loving someone," as Cacciatore explains. But we can take ownership of our grief, one moment at a time, as we move on with the souls who remain in our world.

Be Gentle With Yourself
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According to Dr. Cacciatore, taking care of yourself should be the first priority: "When you're struggling, be gentle with yourself. Be your own best friend. Take care of you."

While we experience so many external pressures at the holidays --being a good host, serving up a tasty dish, taking care of others -- being hard on yourself will only make them more difficult to accomplish. "If you take good care of you today, it will help you flourish for tomorrow," Cacciatore says. "We can't take care of others if we can't take care of ourselves."

"I always tell my clients self-care comes first," says Smith. "People have to know what makes them feel comforted, attached, connected and safe."

If you're missing out on a big holiday because you feel as though you need to be alone, that's OK. Your family may give you a hard time -- they might not understand, or say you are making a bad decision. But, as Smith puts it, "Sometimes you have to make bad decisions for good reasons."

Flickr photo by yanec