Navigating Thanksgiving: How to Cope With Devastating News

In the face of devastating news, understanding the psychological and emotional impact is crucial. With Thanksgiving round the corner Jessica Dalby looks into how to cope with devastating news.

Strolling along the path of our daily life, choosing to manage your happiness and celebrate Thanksgiving, you might feel invincible, as if you’re soaring on cloud nine. It seems nothing can cast a shadow on your joy. You’ve triumphed over the waves of negativity, weathered the storms of divorce, battled through the depths of depression and anxiety, and now, finally, you catch a glimpse of the well deserved joy you have been yearning for.

And then, out of the blue, a phone call disrupts the excitement just ahead of the holidays. However, the anticipated warmth of cheerful updates is replaced by the chilling, monotone voice of a beloved family member, dropping the unexpected bombshell—they have less than five years to live. In that moment, you hear the words, but the impact is so overwhelming that active listening becomes an impossible task. It’s a stark reminder that life is so wonderful but equally fragile. Even in its  bliss, life remains a relentless game of dodgeball.

Now, with the holiday season looming, the struggle intensifies. The prospect of navigating through the festivities alone is challenging enough, but this unforeseen revelation slams into you like a tidal wave. The realisation hits hard. We all journey through this world until our time comes to an end, but the idea that a loved one may not make it to celebrate your 50th birthday leaves you feeling physically ill. Despite having traversed multiple hospital events and endured the ongoing diagnosis of chronic conditions, this type of news could challenge your resilience. Are any of us truly ready for the profound impact of such a stark reality?

Allow yourself to breathe deeply

Life’s journey is marked by unforeseen challenges, and at times, we are confronted with news that rocks the foundations of our existence. Whether it be a daunting health diagnosis, the loss of a loved one, or an unexpected setback, the ability to cope with devastating news is crucial for our well-being and resilience.

Statistics show that emotional suppression can have detrimental effects on mental health. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, individuals who allow themselves to experience and express their emotions tend to have better psychological outcomes in the long run.

Sleep on it and seek support

Research consistently highlights the importance of social support in times of crisis. A survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) revealed that individuals who have a strong support system experience lower levels of stress and better mental health outcomes when dealing with traumatic events.

Whether you anticipate loss or have endured loss talking about it, is as hard as it may be; is one of the highest factors in dealing with the situation. No one wants to talk about loss or expecting loss. It brings sadness and the room begins as a noisy sound to an utter silence. However, if we are unable to talk about it then we are truly either not thinking of others, our future, or our loved ones. This is not an easy topic to deal with, talk about, or plan for but it is a part of life. Be there for someone who may need someone just to listen to them

Dealing with it can look different for everyone. Some may socially isolate, but that is their method of dealing with it. It may look like everything is great because you are in denial. You can show conflicted external emotions because internally you are conflicted, but no one can see what is on the inside, only the outside. We display most of our pain or none of our pain. It is hard to understand because whether you are anticipating grief or going through the grieving process there is no way someone will know. It is not like a zebra, just black and white. 

Take care of your physical wellbeing

Studies published in the Journal of Psychosomatic Research emphasise the interconnectedness of physical and mental health. Ensuring adequate sleep, maintaining a balanced diet, and engaging in regular exercise have been linked to improved overall well-being, assisting individuals in coping with stress and adversity.

The instant reaction affects your mental health, but it is important to understand your physiological health affects your psychological health and vice versa. So, now your mind may be doing a fast dash in a circle, but you begin to feel like you are getting physically ill, or you are having constant joint pains, sick to your stomach, all these symptoms often we do not think are associated with the knowing you will lose someone or the loss of someone. We are more focused on the detrimental toll it will take on our psyche than our body. 

Our internal pain begins to show as an external aspect. Often leaving those at a higher risk for heart attack or high blood pressure. Mental health is a tricky theme as we talk about knowing loss is coming or having endured loss. Our mental health can transform into a physical symptom while it is still a mental symptom. With anticipated grief, mourning, and even complex grief no one symptom means exactly what it is.  

Establish a routine

Clinical psychologists often recommend the establishment of routines for individuals facing adversity. A study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that maintaining a daily routine provides a sense of structure and predictability, reducing feelings of chaos and anxiety.

Educate Yourself

Knowledge is a powerful tool in times of crisis. Research conducted by the Journal of Health Communication suggests that individuals who actively seek information about their situation demonstrate higher levels of understanding, empowerment, and better coping mechanisms.

Practice Mindfulness and Self-Compassion

The benefits of mindfulness and self-compassion are supported by a growing body of research. A meta-analysis published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology concluded that mindfulness interventions significantly reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, promoting emotional well-being.

Studies in the field of positive psychology highlight the importance of setting achievable goals. According to research from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, individuals who set and accomplish realistic goals experience increased feelings of competence and resilience, contributing to overall wellbeing.

In the face of devastating news, understanding the psychological and emotional impact is crucial. By acknowledging and expressing emotions, seeking support, prioritising physical and mental well-being, and adopting evidence-based coping strategies, individuals can navigate these challenging times with resilience and strength. Remember, the journey toward healing is unique for each person, but with the right tools and support, a path forward can be forged.

From sadness to acceptance

With the Thanksgiving Holiday in a few days, the question may be why talk about loss? Anticipating loss, grieving a sudden loss, or being reminded of a loss endured during the holiday time is something to be thankful for in many ways. Aligning the term thankful and loss may seem outrageous, but if we are able to view this from a different lens maybe we can be there for someone or for ourselves. You may be facing the battle of losing someone so dear to your heart but try to remember the joy and special times you had to make their last years full of joy. If you faced the loss of a loved one, you may feel lost and have no reason to see past this. 

Yet, try to think of all the great times, the happy memories that will stay with you forever. Or if you lost someone during the holidays and you feel every year you are reliving the pain, find the light in the darkness. Celebrate their life during the holidays as you celebrated with them while they were standing by you.

We experience loss in more ways than we believe. It is not about how it looks, when, how, or why it happened, but the ability to be thankful for what you have, had and will experience through your healing. Let us be thankful for what he has or had and celebrate them while here or even gone. Embracing the understanding tomorrow is never promised.   

Do you want to share your story and inspire our readers ? Know that every story is paving the way for a brighter, happier future.

Jessica Dalby
Jessica Dalby

Jessica Dalby, with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology, is deeply committed to mental health advocacy. Her humble beginnings and a decade of service in the US Army have shaped her understanding of resilience and the importance of mental well-being. As the founder of Jessica Dalby Brand Media, she's dedicated to elevating brands, from startups to major corporations. Outside of her professional life, she is the proud mother and grandmother of 7 children and 3 grandchildren.

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