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Grief Over The Holidays

Grief Over The Holidays

You know the old saying "The Holidays are times to be spending with your loved ones" and if I'm being honest, I feel like that saying has been imprinted on our psyche from the youngest of ages. I get it, the holidays are a milestone that we share with each other and generally represent a time that is spent with family.  But for many people the holidays represent the glaring absence of a loved one that has passed away, and you're just being expected to cope with it. That is honestly one of the hardest parts of grieving. 

As I'm sure most of you know, when you lose someone special in your life, your world begins to lack it's celebratory qualities. The holidays magnify that and the sadness and loneliness can feel quite isolating. Your need for support during this time may be greater and that's ok.  I can remember being conflicted as there are times when I wanted to participate in all the excitement and joy but simultaneously either didn't want to participate or felt guilty for celebrating.  And that conflict still exists many years later in my life. 
Grief is complicated and unique for everyone. While accepting loss becomes easier over time, we carry it with us forever.
Listen, you can pretend you don't hurt or that this isn't a harder time of year for you but that's just not your truth. But the good news is, you can and will get through the holidays. And let's remember, it's not the grief that you want to avoid, it's the pain.
 
WAYS TO EXTERNALIZE YOUR LOSS:
  • Light a candle for your loved one
  • Chat about them online
  • Share your favourite story about them
  •  A prayer before the Holiday dinner, about your loved one
  •  Create an online tribute for them
  •  Have everyone tell a funny story about your loved one
  • Write them a letter 
WAYS TO COPE WITH YOUR LOSS:
  1. Cancel the holidays - Yes! You can do that. It's your holiday, your time and if you are going through the motions and feeling all the feels  - then take the year off. The holidays will come around again and will inevitably always be there. Let the holiday routine give you a framework during these tough times, and lean on a holiday support system.
  2. See the holidays in a new light and celebrate them in a new way. One of the good things about grief is that it has a unique way of giving us permission to evaluate what parts of the holidays you enjoy and what parts you don't. It's important to remember there is no right or wrong way to handle the holidays in grief. You have every right to change your mind, even a few times. 
  3. Have a plan A, B, and even C. Your plan A could be going to that holiday dinner with your family and friends but if that doesn't feel right, Plan B could be staying in, watching a movie and looking through a photo album. If that doesn't feel right, plan C could be going to a special place you always used to go to. Whatever feels right to you in that moment.
  4. Let me be the first to tell you, it's very natural to feel like you may never enjoy this holiday season / time of year again. Of course, they will never be the same as before your loved one's death, however in time, most people do find the meaning in the traditions and begin to enjoy them again.  Even without grief, our friends and relatives often think they know how our holidays should look, what “the family” should and shouldn’t do.

 

 DO'S AND DON'TS:

  • Do be gentle with yourself 
  • Don’t do more than you want to
  • Do allow time for the feelings
  • Don’t keep feelings bottled up
  • Do allow others to help, if this feels comfortable
  • Don’t ask if you can help someone who is grieving - just help. Find ways.
  • Do, in grief, pay extra attention to the children. Children are too often the forgotten grievers

 

 

CONCLUSION:

Remember, the holiday season is not always as merry as we want it to be and that's normal. It's normal to feel apprehensive about it and you are not alone in those feelings. There is no right or wrong way to deal with the holiday season following the loss of a loved one.

More importantly, if you experience happiness, please allow it to enter into your grief space and be present with the people around you. Be kind to yourself and try to take it one holiday party and one feeling at a time. Happy Holidays. 

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