What do you do when grief takes the happy out of 'happy holidays'?
First: Just keep breathing.
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.
Give yourself permission to have feelings of grief AND joy, even the slightest bit. It doesn’t have to be either/or.
For the friends and family of the grievers:
If you think you want to say something, just do it. Imperfect 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."
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.