Holidays can be both joyful and challenging, and for those who are grieving, the holiday season can be particularly difficult. We just had the two-year remembrance of the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy and people might feel a wide array of different and difficult emotions. Grief is a natural response to loss, and it can be activated by various events, including special occasions like holidays. It’s important to recognize and accept your emotions. Grief doesn’t follow a timetable, and it’s okay to feel a range of emotions during the holidays. Below are a few tips for navigating this season – we encourage you to take what feels helpful to you and leave the rest.
It’s good to let friends and family know what you need during the holiday season. Whether it’s spending time alone, talking about your grief, or participating in festive activities, clear communication can help others support you. It can be helpful to surround yourself with supportive friends and family members who can support your grief. Consider joining a support group, either in person or online, where you can connect with others who are experiencing similar challenges. The United for Waukesha Resiliency Center will have a Fiber Arts Support Group for adults 18+ affected by the parade on Tuesday evenings from 5-7 starting in January. Healing Hearts is a great local organization that offers various grief support groups in the Waukesha area. Here is the link to their website: Healing Hearts of Southeast Wisconsin (healingheartswisconsin.org)
Accept that parts of the holidays are going to be hard and they may not be the same as they were before the event. Be flexible and open to changes in plans or traditions, and give yourself permission to adapt to the circumstances. It’s okay to set boundaries and decline invitations or activities that you feel may be too overwhelming or emotionally challenging. Listen to your own needs and give yourself permission to say no. Share your feelings and needs with close friends and family. Let them know if you need support, time alone, or if you’d like to modify holiday plans. Clear communication helps others understand how to best support you.
Decide as a family which traditions you want to keep and which ones you want to let go. Consider modifying or creating new holiday traditions that feel more manageable and aligned with your current emotional state. This could involve simplifying festivities or focusing on activities that bring comfort.
If you find that your grief is becoming overwhelming or interfering with your ability to function, consider seeking the help of a mental health professional. Therapy can provide a supportive space to process your emotions and develop coping strategies. The United for Waukesha Resiliency Center has service navigators that can assist with getting you connected to a therapist. We also have groups for children and adults to act as a safe space to share and process feelings about their experience with the parade, as well as workshops for the entire family. Keep an eye out on our website at unitedwaukesha.org for the most current information on upcoming programs. Additionally, we also will be partnering with the City of Waukesha Parks and Rec again to offer Trauma Sensitive Yoga led by Leah Larios, who holds a LCSW and is a Yoga Therapist. This can serve as another opportunity to process grief, while connecting the mind, body, and spirit. You can sign up through the City of Waukesha Parks and Rec brochure (coming soon).
Remember that everyone grieves differently, and there’s no right or wrong way to navigate the holidays while grieving. Be patient with yourself, prioritizing self-compassion, and give yourself the space to experience and express your emotions in a way that feels authentic to you.
A resource from What’s Your Grief: 64 Reminders If You’re Filled with Holiday Dread