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St. Louis psychologists give tips to deal with a pandemic holiday season

"It's appropriate to experience sadness or loss or a sense of grief that we aren't able to do things as we would in previous years"

ST. LOUIS — For many of us, families spent the holidays apart for safety reasons.

With all the changes, a range of emotions may come into play.

5 On Your Side spoke to two St. Louis psychologists on how to deal with a pandemic holiday season, as it could unwrap certain emotions. 

"It's appropriate to experience sadness or loss or a sense of grief that we aren't able to do things as we would in previous years," Washington University psychologist Dr. Tim Bono said. "It is likely going to be a cause for a lot of distress for many people. For a lot of people, this is an entire season. This is high time for seasonal affective disorder."

Dr. Bono and trauma therapist Richelle Moore with Restore Counseling and Wellness Services both agree you should stay connected with loved ones, even if it's virtual.

It's important to not isolate.

"If you're feeling sad if you're feeling anxious, a very effective thing to do can be to pick up the phone and call somebody, reach out to another person," Dr. Bono said.

Moore also said sending letters can be helpful because it allows you to get everything down in writing.

Another tip? Give yourself permission to experience whatever you're feeling.

"We don't try to push it off to the side and keep going because those emotions that we don't deal with will eventually deal with us," Moore said.

"It's OK to feel sadness and loss and grief at the same time that we are looking forward to joy and hope and optimism," Dr. Bono said. "So, allowing yourself to feel that full range of emotion is entirely appropriate."

When dealing with the loss of a loved one, Dr. Bono said it's important to acknowledge the loss, the sadness and the grief. But to also find ways to honor that person through a favorite tradition or cooking up their favorite dish.

"I think that a part of honoring them is honoring the fact that, in all likelihood, they would still want this to be a joyful time," he said.

While this year may have had moments of despair, it's also important to hold on to some hope. 

"It's also important to acknowledge that this is something that is hopefully just a once in a lifetime occurrence," Dr. Bono said.

"This will pass and we'll all have those opportunities to be together again," Moore said.

Missouri has a crisis counseling program in response to the COVID-19 impact with resources and ways to cope.

If you need more information, you can go to the website here.