Psychologist offers some calm coping strategies for people suffering from grief at the holidays

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WHEELING, W. Va. (WTRF) – Dr. Patricia Bailey says grief is a normal reaction to tragedy. So recognizing and allowing it is part of the healing process.

She says don’t feel forced to accept invitations to parties or get-togethers, and if you feel up to it, have an exit strategy planned. “Give yourself permission to leave,” said Dr. Bailey. “Sometimes I suggest to people, take your own car so that if you need to quietly exit, you can do so at a time that’s convenient for you.”

And self care is vital for someone grieving.

“So we want to make sure that they limit their alcohol use and eat healthy foods so that they can feel the best that they can be,” she noted. “Sleep is another thing. We want to make sure that people are sleeping properly because they want to be well-rested because that also affects their emotional state.”

She said holiday decorating can be a joyous tradition.

“But if you lost somebody, it can be very painful to take out the ornaments, to put up a tree,” Dr. Bailey said. “So if you need to minimize that, it’s OK.  And if you decide it’s just too painful to put up a tree this year, that’s OK too.”

She says grief is natural, but so is happiness. So don’t feel wrong or guilty if you find yourself laughing or smiling. “Your loved one would want you to be happy,” she said. “They would want you to go on and enjoy yourself and enjoy life.”

She said some families choose to leave an empty seat at the table to honor their lost loved one.

Others change up their traditions, and invite some new people to the table for the holiday.

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