Our topic for the last grief recovery group was Healing Through the Holidays.
The holidays are often depicted as a time of joy, togetherness, and celebration–with marathon Hallmark movies to everything that has to do with spending time with your loved ones and creating incredible memories, love stories, and connection.
But what about those who are grieving?
If it’s the loss of a loved one (whether it was years ago or recent)…
a move to another state…
or one of the 40+ experiences that may cause grief during such a “joyful” time?
The hard truth is: Grief doesn't take a holiday and the contrast between the festive atmosphere and the heaviness of loss can be overwhelming.
Is there a way to grieve and also heal through the holidays, you ask?
Although there is nothing that can take our pain away overnight (I wish there was!), there are small steps we can take during this holiday season that may create small opportunities to healing:
Acknowledge Our Emotions:
When coping with grief during the holidays, it is good beginning to acknowledge our emotions. There are SO many reminders we face: an empty chair at the table, missing Mom’s apple pie, the places we went, or the traditions we had and are now faced with creating new ones.
It's normal to feel such a mix of sadness, anger, and confusion. When we give ourselves some space, some time to reflect, and allow these feelings to linger a bit, there’s a sense of peace that can come. Sometimes even saying what we feel out loud can help in just getting it out. Please remember, your emotions are valid and natural and deserve some attention.
Communicate Our Needs:
Family dynamics definitely play a role in how we approach the holidays. I know people who have anxiety just thinking about spending time with family!
During the holidays, we may feel pressure from well-meaning friends and family to participate in festivities, and it's crucial to communicate our needs openly and honestly. There is nothing wrong with letting our loved ones know that we need some time alone or that we prefer a low-key celebration. People who care will likely appreciate the honesty and may be more understanding of the situation.
We may feel as if no one understands and all alone, especially if those around us are caught up in the excitement of the season. I encourage you to reach out to someone you trust, someone that you can share what you’re feeling. Even if you have to begin the conversation with: “I just need to share what I’m feeling. I don’t want you to fix, give me advice, or judge me. I just really need a listening ear right now without judgment.”
If you still find it may be hard to find someone in your immediate surroundings, please reach out to someone! You can also send me an email, text, or give me a call.
Taking care of your physical and emotional well-being is always essential, but we may feel it to be even more challenging during the holidays. Why is that? With the hustle and bustle of endless events, advertising, and “holiday cheer,” we may find it hard to find time for ourselves, say no, or feel obligated to attend every function.
One of the most gracious ways to practice self-care is to say “no.”
“No?” you ask.
Giving ourselves permission to skip that school function, to say no to the office
party, or other festivities may feel more liberating than draining. Try it! I know it will be
hard at first (especially for you people pleasers!), but you will be ok!
Embrace the Bittersweet:
This may be the hardest thing to do because the holidays may amplify the bittersweet nature of grief – the simultaneous experience of joy and sorrow, happiness and sadness, loss and love.
When we embrace our emotions, we give ourselves permission to also embrace the present moment. Embracing does not mean forgetting or that we don’t care. Sometimes embracing is a step to letting go of the pain, letting go of the ugly, and letting go of what once was.
When we allow ourselves to find moments of joy in the midst of sadness, we can recognize that it is possible to hold all these different emotions at the same time. Embracing the bittersweet aspects may contribute to finding moments of peace and connection during this holiday season.
As always, however you are feeling today, I want you to know that you are never alone. I encourage you to reach out—if not to me, then to someone!
I believe in you,
P.S. How helpful was this? If you think of someone who may benefit, please do not hesitate to forward this information. Thank you!