12/05/2012 08:12 am ET Updated Feb 04, 2013

Loss at the Holidays: Dealing With Holiday Cards, Loneliness and Relatives

A week or so ago, I spoke to a bereavement group about staying healthy and happy through the holidays. The discussion quickly moved from holistic wellness (mind, body and spirit) to getting through the mental side of dealing with loss at the holidays.

Losing a loved one is one of the most painful experiences we have to endure. The holidays, however, bring on a variety of situations and complex feelings and emotions. As a result, what should be a joyous time often becomes a constant reminder of our loss and sadness.

At this time, it is most important to honor your needs and treat yourself with kindness. Grieving is a very individual process. There is no wrong way or right way to grieve, and so be true to yourself.

Here are a few holiday scenarios people commonly find themselves grappling with when they are dealing with the loss of a loved one at the holidays, and some ways in how to address them:

  1. Holiday Cards: During the discussion, one man expressed that he hated receiving holiday cards. He felt that the people sending them were looking for something from him: contact, a response, some sort of communication. He said, "I don't want to talk to anyone. I just want to be left alone."

    If This Is You: You don't owe anything to anyone. This is your time to grieve, and to grieve how you want. You have every right to be private and quiet. If you don't want to deal with holiday cards, have a family member or a neighbor collect your mail, and separate out the cards. Don't have the cards discarded, as you may want to open them at a later date. Instead, have them hold the cards in a box for you so you don't have to see them or address them in the moment.

  2. Nowhere to Go, No one to be With: If you have lost a spouse or a partner, you may feel alone during the holidays. This is especially true if the rest of your family lives far away, or if your friends and neighbors have plans that don't include you.

    If This Is You: If you want to be surrounded with people during the holidays, look for public groups or organizations that hold public holiday celebrations. If you feel like entertaining, open your home to others, or host a "potluck" celebration. Another consideration: go on a trip. Cruises are especially great for meeting people, having some fun, and celebrating in an upbeat, happy environment.

  3. An Overbearing Relative: When we suffer a loss, it is common for relatives or friends to want to take over and orchestrate the holidays for us. They probably have the best of intentions, but instead, might break boundaries, and cause stress and frustration.

    If This is You: If you feel a loved one is pushing you into something that makes you uncomfortable, be honest. Show your appreciation, but be true to yourself and communicate your needs. Tell them what you want, and let them know that although you appreciate their love and support, you need them to respect your wishes.

Although the holidays after a loss may be painful, try to remember that time does heal.

Wishing you much love, peace and all the best in the New Year.

For more by Brett Blumenthal, click here.

For more on emotional wellness, click here.