Updated: Nov 16, 2022
What do you do when grief takes the happy out of 'happy holidays'?
Updated November 16, 2022. A few days after my own mom passed away. 92 years old, after a full and fun life. I came back to the post to see if it still resonated with me, as I enter the holiday season.
First: Just keep breathing.
There are different kinds of grief you can experience. It's not just around the death of a loved one.
You might live away from your home town or family due to school or work. You may be missing your traditions, your town, or just the weather that says "holidays". Some people also experience seasonal depression.
Regardless, grief is the emotion you have to take care of yourself to get through, not fix. Here are my suggestions.
For the grievers:
Give yourself permission to focus on your own self-care, your children, food, water, and shelter. It’s OK to only focus on basic true life essentials. Until you have the strength to see beyond that. You can engage in any holiday activity, only when you're ready.
Give yourself permission to walk one step at a time, and don't hold on to the expectations of what you "should" do. We get enough of that from society - we don't need to add those same expectations internally.
The holidays are going to come AND they're going to go. Plan something lovely and intentional about the person that you're missing this season. We naturally can be consumed by grief, but when we do something that feels lovely about them, with intention, it will help to pull your focus to something joyful as well. Share stories about your loved one, or incorporate a tradition that you are missing from your home.
Give yourself permission to have feelings of grief AND joy, even the slightest bit. It doesn’t have to be either/or.
Share your thoughts and feelings with others. Share the thoughts of your loved one, or things that you miss. Expressing it helps you experience it, and you won't be alone in it.
Get help if needed. Talking to a friend is wonderful. Sometimes we need more. Don't be afraid to see professional help to get you through a season of need.
For the friends and family of the grievers:
If you think you want to say something, just do it. Imperfect and awkward contact is better than none. Make it genuine, even say "I don't know what to say, but I'm here and I love you and I'm thinking of you."
Go be awkward.
If you're a doer - deliver a gift card, provide a meal, consider a gift that honors their loved one (like a donation in their name), or bring them something that reminds you of the person that they miss.
The holidays can definitely add additional and unnecessary pressure for those experiencing grief. but we can normalize and ease some of this pressure by releasing expectations that the experience has to be anything other than what it is; Which will always be a mixture of all possible emotions. And that is OK.
We will make it through any holiday season filled with grief AND joy. A we will do it together.