Coping with grief during the holidays

Loss comes in many forms. Maybe it's a loved one, a beloved pet or even a job. Loss takes its toll on us emotionally, and physically.

The holidays can be a tough time to deal with grief, too, because it's easy to feel as though everyone else is having a great time. 

Cleveland Clinic Psychologist Dr. Scott Bea says that grief is a difficult topic for most of us but we can't be too uncomfortable to bring it up with someone who's struggling. 

"It's really good to try and blow through your own discomfort, really inquire about the condition of one who has lost a loved one; to talk about the loved one, not to ignore that, to feel free to talk about the loss because that's how our brains and bodies adjust to the reality of that," he says. 

Dr. Bea says that the grief process actually involves physical and chemical changes in our brains. These changes produce stress reactions in our body and they take time to overcome. He says that the timetable for getting through the stages of grief is different for everyone, which is why it’s important to give people time to heal and not rush them through the process. 

We don't always get over a loss, but we adjust to it. Time helps us heal because it takes practice for us to be in the world without the person we've lost.  

Dr. Bea says that grief can cascade into complicated bereavement or even depression in some cases, especially for those who have had a history of anxiety or depression. 

"What we call complicated bereavement are instances in which those chemical responses in our brain and body don't go away so easily and they persist and they predispose us to other problems, including things like depression or even physical illness because the arousal and activation in our body can actually tax our immune system and predispose us to infections and other illnesses," he says.

Keep in mind therapies can help but often just talking about your feelings goes a long way, too.