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Managing Grief This Holiday Season

The holiday season can be a difficult time when you are grieving. You may feel isolated while others celebrate the holidays with family and friends, as the sights, sounds, and smells of the season may spark memories of loved ones.

As a service member or military family, you face unique challenges when located away from your family support system. There are ways to support your well-being while coping with grief and loss.

Acknowledge and feel your feelings. Give yourself permission to recognize your emotions. Holiday stressors may intensify previously unacknowledged feelings. Those feelings are valid, and you have a right to feel them.

Ask for help and support. Identify people in your life who understand your grieving process and encourage you to be vulnerable or express your feelings. Attending a grief and loss group, whether online or in person, can provide additional support and understanding.

Take care of your physical health and wellness. Grief may impact your physical well-being as it can affect sleep, appetite, and fitness routines. Try to limit alcohol consumption, stay hydrated, explore new holiday activities, take naps, and eat nourishing foods.

Set healthy boundaries. Set realistic expectations for yourself and others. Let your friends and family know what you are comfortable doing during the holiday season. Manage your obligations and try not to feel pressure to attend every event or please everyone.

Talk to your children about loss. Talking with your children about grief may be difficult. Prepare them for a holiday season that feels different this year and remind them it is ok to talk about how that makes them feel. Include them in the holiday planning process.

Honor your loved one with a tradition. When we lose someone, the love does not end.  A remembrance tradition may help you feel more connected during the holidays. Set a plate out for that person, light a candle, watch a movie they loved, or make their favorite food.

Remember what works for others, may not work for you. Identify your own grief journey and understand that your needs may change over time. Be kind and compassionate with yourself, allow yourself to be vulnerable with your support system, and you will continue to heal.

The following resources support military families experiencing grief and loss, not only during the holidays, but any time of the year:

TAPS is available to you 24/7 through our National Military Survivor Helpline at 800-959-8277. Please reach out this holiday season if you are feeling lonely, experiencing grief, have questions, or just want to talk to someone. The staff at TAPS offer peer support from volunteers who have experienced the loss of a service member.

Military OneSource counselors are available for free, short-term, confidential, non-medical counseling services for a wide range of issues, including relationship conflicts, stress management, coping with loss, and managing deployments. Sessions can take place in person, over the phone, or via secure video or online chat. Call 1-800-342-9647 or the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, then press 1.

The Community Counseling Program (CCP) provides non-medical counseling services to Marines, Sailors, other service members, and their families. CCP offices are located on Marine Corps installations. To schedule an appointment with the CCP office aboard your installation, please visit the MCCS website for your location for contact information.

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