(Last Updated On: March 25, 2022)

Dealing With Grief & Recovery During The Holidays

Coping Skills And Your Recovery

The Psychology of Scams – a SCARS Insight

Coping with the Holidays After the End of a Relationship

Portions courtesy of NOVA – National Organization for Victims’ Assistance

When Grief Comes Home for the Holidays

Many among us have struggled with the cloud of sadness that hangs over the holidays after a loved one has died or a relationship has ended suddenly. Sometimes a romance scam being discovered is like the other person died – so complete is the ending, without warning, and without any possibility of recovery.

Regardless of how the relationship ended, the onslaught of holiday cheer may seem too much to bear. Holidays can give rise to new or returning bouts of depression, panic attacks, and other forms of anxiety for those whose lives have been affected.

Many of us often re-experience life-changing trauma through flashbacks, nightmares, and overwhelming sadness. Some have trouble sleeping, while others don’t want to get out of bed. Tears come easily, often when least expected. Old ailments, including headaches, gastrointestinal problems, and aches and pain may return.

Those who have made this difficult journey offer the following suggestions to help those who may be just starting down this path. Many were surprised to discover that the anticipation of a holiday without that relationship can be harder than the actual holiday itself. Holidays can be manageable if you take charge of the season, rather than letting it take charge of you

Things You Can Do

Change Traditions

Trying to make this holiday seem like holidays of the past, especially during the scam, will only intensify the difference. You can decide which traditions you want to keep and which ones you want to let go. If there was something special that you did during a holiday during the fake relationship, you can wilfully abandon it now.

Change holiday plans to accommodate the needs and wishes of those who are hurting the most.

Create a Special Tribute To Your Recovery

You do not need to explain it to anyone, but you can light a special candle and place it on a holiday table to honor your struggle and recovery.

Some write a remembrance at the end of the year to both remember the wrong done and to bury the past. You can then burn the remembrance in the fireplace or by hand and place it in a bowl to watch it until it is reduced to ashes. Or you can create a more elaborate “Viking Funeral” to make the end of it in your own mind.

Plan Where to Spend the Holidays

Many people think going away will make the holidays easier following a relationship or a romance scam. This may be helpful if you are traveling to a
place where you will feel loved and nurtured. However, if travel is arranged as a means of trying to avoid the holiday atmosphere, remember that holidays are celebrated throughout the world. It is impossible to escape holiday reminders entirely.

There are two schools of thought on going somewhere to help you recover. One is to go to where you feel safe, such as visiting parents or family. The other is to create new memories by going someplace completely new, but be careful of this, being alone is not always advisable.

Balance Solitude with Sociability

Rest and solitude can help renew strength. Friends and family, however, can be a wonderful source of support, especially if they accept you as you are and do not tell you how they think you should feel, or that they “understand” how you feel. If you are invited to holiday outings, try to go. Attend musical or other cultural events that lift your spirits. You may surprise yourself by enjoying special outings, even if you feel like crying later.

Relive Fond Memories

It is a heavy and unrealistic burden to go through the holidays pretending that nothing has happened.

Think about holiday seasons you have enjoyed in the past and identify memories you want to hold in your heart forever. No one can take those away from you. Celebrate them and be grateful. If feelings of sadness pop up at inappropriate times, such as at work or in a public gathering, try thinking about what you have rather than what you no longer have. Focus on the blessing of the memories in your heart.

Set Aside Some “Letting Go” Time

Schedule time to be alone and release sad and lonely pent-up feelings. You may want to cry or write about your thoughts and feelings. You may choose to write a letter to your scammer to say “goodbye,” “I forgive you,” or “I’m sorry.” Allow your emotions to flow through your pen. You may be surprised at what you write. By setting aside special times to allow painful feelings to surface, it becomes easier to postpone expressing them in public.

Counter the Conspiracy of Silence

Family members may consciously or unconsciously conspire to avoid mentioning the scam. This is usually a well-intentioned but misguided attempt to protect your feelings. If this seems to be happening, take the initiative and talk to your family about the importance of talking openly about what has happened. Tell them that it is ook to ask how you are and how your recovery is going.

Never let yourself or anyone refer to them as “He/Him” or “She/Her” – it was not one scammer, always refer to them as “They/Them.”

Notice the Positive

Some people conclude that facing the holidays is simply “awful.”

By deciding prematurely that “everything about life is awful,” you are generalizing irrationally from your personal tragedy. Although you may have difficult times during the holidays, you also may experience joy. Accept the love and care of others. Reach out to someone else who is suffering or hurting. Give yourself permission to feel sad and to experience joy.

Find a Creative Outlet

If you have difficulty talking about your feelings, look for a creative way to express yourself. Write a memorial poem or story that you can share with others. Buy watercolors or oils and put your feelings on paper or canvas, even if it’s only splashes of color. Contribute to a favorite charity or organization, either financially or by volunteering to help. Buy gifts to take to less fortunate children, a hospital, or a nursing home.

Protect Your Health

Physical and emotional stress changes the chemical balance in your system and can make you ill. Eat healthy food and avoid over-indulging in sweets. Drink plenty of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty.

Try to avoid too much alcohol, which can be a depressant. Take a good multi-vitamin. Get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Talk with your doctor about an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication if you think it will help. If you are unsure about how the medication will affect you, talk to your doctor about your
concerns.

Utilize Available Resources

People of faith are encouraged to observe services and rituals offered by their church, synagogue or temple, mosque, or other faith community. Many “veterans of faith” can offer you serenity, a quiet presence, and healing wisdom. You may want to look for a support group of persons who have suffered similar experiences – SCARS offers support groups in English and Spanish, as well as other languages through our partner organizations.

The Mental Health Association or your local hospital in most communities has a list of local support groups that may be more easily accessed during the holidays.

The most valuable helper is usually someone who shares a common experience or understands something about what you’re going through. Spend as much time as possible with the people you love the most.

Remember

Most important, remember that you can’t change the past, but you can take charge of the present, and shape the future. Total recovery may not be immediately possible, but what you make of your trauma can be largely up to you

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