Holidays and Grief

Holidays have always been a torturous time for us grievers. A time of happiness and family get-togethers becomes a time of sadness, loneliness and feelings of despair for the griever.  There is also an added amount of pressure from well-meaning family and friends to “be happy” or it’s time to “move on” during this time of year.

This is the time of year that grievers often take to keeping to themselves. Not being too social. Almost to the point of being recluse. That happens in part because one it’s easier than dealing with the “well-meaning” family and friends who think they are helping and two because showing your pain and grief somehow makes it more real. It becomes your private friend. The one you don’t want to introduce anymore to anyone.

It’s hard to for a griever to imagine that their broken heart can mend or that love will ever feel the same again. But love doesn’t end when your loved one dies. The love left in your heart is still there. It’s the emptiness, the void left from their absence that makes your heart hurt. But the love – always will it be there to hold your heart together.

On one hand the holiday season brings beautiful decorations and lights. Wonder singing and praises to our God and then there are the lonely moments when the pain of your loss overwhelms you and all those sweet memories that you hold so dear to your heart remind you that your loved one is not there again to enjoy the holidays with you. And despite the good intentions of others, no one can take away the hurt you feel. All we can do is find ways to cope with the holidays.

Healing through the holidays can happen, but only if you allow yourself to experience the season. Feel the goodness of the season. See the beauty of the season. Because it is Jesus’ birth that we truly celebrate. All the other “holiday stuff” is just that – stuff. If you get your mind on the true meaning of why we celebrate Christmas – you can truly move beyond the pain of the holidays.

Don’t be afraid to talk about how you feel or to express your feelings of grief. Pain doesn’t go away on its own. It must be given a voice, whether it be vocal or written expression. I’ve always been a big fan of journaling as I can honestly say it has allowed me the vision to see my journey laid out on paper to see the progression from early grief to the grief I have today, three years later.

When you are experiencing an increase in grieving, it can make you more tired, physically and mentally. So take the time you need to slow down and get the rest you deserve. Don’t try to keep up with everyone else. Learn to say no when you need a break. But also say yes when you need to have someone around to talk with.

My biggest lesson that I’ve struggled with from the get go has been learning to say no. Stretching myself beyond my limits. I do it because it keeps me busy and then when I’m busy I don’t think about how painful I feel. It’s a cover up. It actually can increase your grief because it is increasing your stress. Stress on the body lowers your ability to cope.

Surround yourself with people who understand that the holidays can be difficult for  you. That holidays increase your awareness and sense of loss – so much so – that you may avoid holiday activities. Spending time with people who understand and that allow you to talk openly about your feelings is one of the most important gifts a family member or friend can give a griever at the holidays.

I know personally for me it’s hard to find people who want to hear my story or to hear about Brittany. But it’s crucial to the healing process to include them, the memories of them in the conversations without having someone roll their eyes at you or change the subject all because it’s too uncomfortable for the. It’s not their loss – it’s not their pain – it’s not their life. It’s your life, your pain, your loss and it has to be acknowledged for as long as you need.

A plan for anticipated moments where you may feel overwhelmed by a thought or memory should be in place so if it does happen you can leave the room or take a break without feeling embarrassed.

The most important part – is our memories of our loved ones are legacies that exist. They are apart of who we are and apart of who they were in our lives. Holidays make us remember these times more than any other time of the year. Go with it. Let it come. Journal it. Embrace it. Don’t ignore it. I have found over the past 3 years that the memories now bring smiles more than tears. But the tears still do come. Your memories are the love you had with that person and will forever remain in your heart. No one – No one can take that from you.

Create new memories by spending time with people. Try not to isolate yourself thinking you can avoid the holiday season. You can’t and it’s truly not good for you. I try to spend time with friends, family and other people to create a new definition of holiday for me. But with that in mind, these people I spend time with know my story and know that my story is what makes me who I am today.

Most of all love yourself during the holidays. Express yourself by giving and receiving love from others and from God. Surround yourself with loving people and you’ll see that your journey through the holidays will take on a new and different light. But always with a distant glow that remains in your heart from the love and joy that came from having loved someone so much.

Until next time