(WHTM) — For many people, the holidays are a time for joy and family, but for some, this season can make feelings of grief and loneliness even worse.
There are several reasons the holidays can be hard. People could be struggling with losing a loved one or spending the holidays away from family. UPMC psychologist Dr. Melissa Brown said the best thing people can do is work on sharing how they are feeling and what they need from those around them.
“We’re not great at talking about grief to begin with,” Brown said.
During the holidays, it can seem like sadness — or any negative emotion — has no place.
“There’s this pressure to put on a fake smile or this pressure to be happy and joyful when you’re not really necessarily feeling that way,” Brown said.
However, feelings of grief or loneliness are more common than they appear.
“Someone might be feeling sad about the loss of a loved one…or just not having the means to get back together with family,” Brown said. “Many times, people are not acknowledging those emotions, they’re shoving them down and avoiding and not dealing with them.”
Brown said everybody copes differently but her biggest piece of advice is to communicate.
“It’s important to share those feelings and acknowledge them,” she said.
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Brown said when it comes to holding on to holiday traditions, it can be helpful — but not always.
“Evaluate them. Are they going to continue to bring you joy or are they going to continue to bring you sadness?” she said.
She also said volunteering can be an outlet.
“Sometimes when we can give back to others, that sometimes helps us grow and helps us process our own grief,” Brown said.
Still, she said it is really up to everyone individually to decide how best to heal.
“I think the biggest thing is to evaluate what’s right for you and your family, but most importantly communicate what it is that is making you feel sad,” she said.
For people looking to support a struggling friend, Brown said that can be a difficult conversation too.
“The biggest response I hear from people is they don’t know what to say,” she said. “Not knowing what to do really makes people panic.”
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Again, she said it is all about communication.
“The most important thing is asking…’How can we make this holiday better for you or how can I support you?'” she said.
Brown said grief, loneliness, sadness are all uncomfortable to talk about because there is often no way to solve the problem, but just starting that conversation can be a way to show people you are there for them.