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Coping with Grief At Christmas: 'Allow Feelings of Sadness - But Remember the Happy'

12-19-2017
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Christmas is just around the corner and what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, is actually the opposite for many. 
          
That's because the holidays are a time of grief for people who have lost loved ones.
          
In a interview with CBN News, author and neuroscientist Dr. Caroline Leaf explained why grief is especially hard during the holidays.

"There are those deep, entrenched memories that have so much emotion attached to them," she said.  "It's a trigger, the holidays are a family time. It just makes the bond and the memories and the emotions so much stronger."

Leaf also said that on a scientific level, when a person loses a loved one, an actual change in the brain takes place.

"The brain is still longing for that person, their touch, the sound, their feel, their smell and all the senses are still very alive," she said. "The memory of that person is still alive and over time it does fade a little but they're always going to be missing that person." 

Leaf said it is important to allow feelings of grief.

"We need to embrace it as opposed to fighting it," she commented. "Embrace it and immerse ourselves in it. Find a way of celebrating something that you know that person loved to do."

She also said finding balance is key to grieving in a healthy way. 

"People often try to ignore it or they try to embrace it or immerse themselves in it but it's a balance between yes cry a few tears, feel that grief," said Leaf.

She continued, "Don't deny that grieving because it's very real. You've gone through the situation.  You can't deny that because if you suppress it, it's going to explode volcanic mode.  It's also very important to try and find a happy memory. Do the two together -- balance it.  Spend five minutes or so, however long you feel, remembering, crying a few tears and then think of something happy and try to focus on the happiness and happy memories, if you all sitting around the table, think of all the happy things. That re-focuses and changes the sort of energy level inside of your brain and helps you get stronger to cope with it otherwise you can get absolutely lost in the grief."

Dr. Leaf also offered advice to people who may feel overwhelmed doing normal holiday traditions after losing someone they love.

"Try to find something that you know that they loved. If you have a tradition that you normally do, do that thing," she suggested.

She also explained why faith is important in the grieving process. 

"It's going to give you that strength," said Leaf.

"It's going to help you alter your mindset because grief is not something we can just deny. We need strength to be able to deal with the grief. And that strength is going to come from God," she shared. "So, literally staying in the arms of God. Stepping into that faith zone, that love zone is very important in a grief situation because you actually feel you're not alone."

She shared practical ways to do that.

"Visualize Jesus sitting at the table with you. Visualize that you're immersed in the warmth and the love of God. Get some kind of analogy that will help you to feel that strength of God, commented Leaf.

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