Supporting Grief During the Holiday Season
Written by Dr. Sarah Anzola, DACM, L.Ac.
We are post-Thanksgiving and I have been reflecting on my own emotional grief this season. Lately, I have also been exposed to the emotional and physical tolls that grief has had on my patients. As we move through the Holiday season, we become more aware of the abscense of our loved ones who are no longer with us. It is not easy to go through these emotions, that’s for sure.
Grief is the one that thing is inevitable at any point in time. It’s the pain and reflection of love that is universal and connects us all together.
There are many stages of grief that we travel through and there is also help, support, and human connection to get through the holiday season. Just remember, you never have to be in the journey alone.
The Five Stages of grief was developed by Elisabeth Kugler-Ross in 1969 and include: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. These stages reflect our own personal attempts to process change and protect ourselves while we adapt to a new reality. Grief looks different for everyone. Grief takes a toll on our minds, bodies, and spirits and often visits us again during this season. It’s important that we understand the stages of grief to connect to where we are in the process, and how to support ourselves, or the one’s we love.
Denial - This may look like avoidance, forgetfulness, keeping busy all of the time, thinking “Im fine,” and avoiding it overall. It feels like shock, numbness, and confusion.
Anger - This may look like pessimism, sarcasm, irritability, being aggressive, getting into arguments, increased alcohol/drug use. It may feel like frustration, impatience, resentment, rage, embarrassment, and feeling out of control.
Bargaining - This may look like ruminating on the future or past, over-thinking and worrying, predicting the future and assuming the worst, perfectionism, thinking “I should have..,” and judging self or others. It feels like guilt, shame, blame, fear, anxiety, insecurity.
Depression - This may look like sleep/appetite changes, reduced energy/social interest/motivation, crying, increased alcohol/drug use. This feels like sadness, despair, helplessness, hopelessness, disappointment, and overwhelm.
Acceptance - This may feel like mindful behaviors, engaging with reality, “this is how it is right now,” being present in the moment, able to be vulnerable and tolerate emotions, assertive, non-defensive, honest communication, adapting, coping, and responding skillfully. This feels like “good enough,” courageous, validation, self-compassion, pride, and wisdom.
As we go through different stages at different times, it’s important to be mindful of how you are feeling so that you know best how to support yourself. If you are suffering from seasonal depression, please talk with a professional to get help. The Acushen Clinic team is always here to support you and your needs.
Acupuncture: An acupuncture practitioner will work with each patient specifically on their loss and emotional and physical manifestation of symptoms and work to re-balance the body. Acupuncture works on re-balancing the nervous system, turning off the “fight or flight” responses, and promoting neurotransmitters to release endorphins. This phenomenon will result in feeling more peaceful, calm, and ease after each treatment.
Nutrition: Grief and diet are inter-connected, as some may lose appetite and some may use food for comfort. Follow these nutritional recommendations to keep your diet balanced to support the physical and mental stress that you may be undergoing.
Eat slow-release energy foods such as healthy carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar levels balanced. Sweet potato, beans, fruit, and vegetables.
Stay hydrated by drinking 6-8 glasses of water daily to help you feel more alert and clear-headed. Avoid sugary drinks such as juices, coffee, and sodas.
Protect your GUT. Gut health is directly connected to how you are feeling emotionally, especially if you are suffering from stress and anxiety. Include plenty of fibers and avoid any foods that trigger inflammation, especially greasy foods, refined grains, and junk food. Work with a Functional Nutritionist to support your overall gut microbiome and your mood.
Eat healthy fats to support a healthy brain such as salmon, nuts, avocado, and olive oil. Trans and hydrogenated fats have a negative impact on our physical and mental health.
Eat plenty of protein, especially if you have lost an appetite. Focus on eating protein such as meat, fish, eggs, legumes to support brain function.
Be mindful of caffeine and alcohol intake as this can trigger a negative response in your gut health, and nervous system balance.
Herbal Medicine: Natural medicinal herbs are an effective way to help ease the pain of grief, balance stress, and improve sleep. (Along with all the other physical and emotional tolls and symptoms) There are many different herbal medicines and formulas to help combat depression and grief that are very effective for coping. Our practitioners can prescribe you these gentle, but effective medicinals to help ease the sensations of grief. You can schedule an herbal only appointment for these prescriptions (great Telemedicine option) or an in-person full health evaluation with acupuncture.
Emotional Support: Finding balance is the best support for a grieving individual. Community and familiar support is essential. At Acushen Clinic, we have so much more to offer our patients. We have a Functional Nutritionist on our team to provide Gut balance to support physical and emotional stressors. We are also trained and board certified in acupuncture, herbal medicine, massage therapy, cupping therapy, and we have a variety of supplements and ear seeds to support you when you’re outside of the clinic. We work closely with other professional providers in our community such as mental health therapist and chiropractors that specialize in crania-sacral therapy, which we often refer our patients to. We are all in this together, and we are here to support you in whichever way possible.