Throw the tinsel at the tree. Explode the party poppers in the yard. Christmas is here. As bright and cheery as this time of year often is, not everyone will find themselves in the holiday spirit. In light of recent events in the lives of people close to me, I decided to pull an older post out of the archives and dust it off. A little something for those dealing with grief. It’s been several years so if you’ve been with me from the beginning may your read this piece with fresh eyes.
The Elephant in the Room: Dealing with Grief at the Holidays
Holidays are a time for family and friends to gather in celebration. As much as we like to paint a pretty picture from afar, up close, many people are dealing with a much different reality. It could be you or someone you know. It’s referred to as “the elephant in the room.” The missing piece everyone tries to ignore by curling their lips up into a smile, as if to say “everything’s okay.” The reality, the depth of their core doesn’t match their exterior.
The Big C, Aids, premature heart disease, fatal car accidents, to name a few: they all take loved ones from our lives. No matter how an individual is lost to us, no matter where we place the blame, the pain is ours to confront and accept. It’s a part of life we often have difficulty accepting. Especially when it hits close to home.
Holidays tend to magnify the loss through pieces of the ritual no-longer present. The first one to two years are usually the hardest. I’ve heard the healing process compared to a broken or missing limb. As one must learn to get around with a broken leg, in a wheel chair or with crutches, allowances must be made for you to move through a room. People can no longer expect you to jump up and dance at a party. Your limbs are weak, achy, sore, and in need of tender care. So is the case in the loss of a loved one.
Now harboring a broken heart, possibly a torn soul, your friends and family can’t expect you to be overflowing with holiday spirit. You’ll need to make adjustments for your new condition and coddle your broken self a bit.
If you or someone you know is dealing with a loss at the holidays, here are a few things that can help get through the days ahead:
❤ Find a quiet place to write out your feelings. This may sound painful, but can help a person work through the emotional roller coaster. You might even find comfort in getting a special journal designated for this purpose. The writings are for working through the inner turmoil and don’t need to be shared.
❤ Give yourself permission to express your feelings. It’s part of the healing process. If needed, gracefully excuse yourself from company and find a private place to let it flow. It’s actually been scientifically proven that certain brain chemicals within our tears naturally relieve pain.
❤ Avoid depressant. Even if everyone else at the party is having a drink, it’s probably best you pass. If you’re already feeling down, the last thing you need is something to help drag you lower. Instead, grab a sparkling water or cranberry. It will look just as festive without the negative side-effect.
❤ Play music that lifts your spirits. Avoid tunes that make you melancholy and look for melodies that instill you with peace and happiness. Avoid songs with special attached meanings unless you actually find this to help you.
❤ You may be seeing a theme here but, avoid activities that were commonly shared with the now deceased individual. At least, avoid the activities until you have a better grasp on yourself and your loss.
❤ Reading has been known to help people through rough adjustments. A few good choices would be Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, The Comfort Book for Those Who Mourn by Anna Trimiew or Don’t Take My Grief Away: What to Do When You Lose a Loved One by Doug Manning.
In those first few days, months, even years, it may feel as if the world is crashing in around you . Stay strong, the saying is true, it gets easier with time. You won’t forget, nor will you hurt less, but you’ll hurt less often. And in time, you’ll once again be able to reminisce with happiness. Trust me, it will happen.
Something I like to do is burn a remembrance candle on special days for the person or persons passed. The ritual keeps them ever-present at the event. You too might find this act, in its simplicity, rather comforting.
For those experiencing the sharp pang of a missing loved one, I hope you’ve found something in this post helpful. For those of you who know someone living a painful loss, may the above help you better understand your friend or co-worker’s state-of-mind . Thank you everyone, for stopping in. I hope you found this post both insightful and helpful.
★ Remember, holidays are a fabulous time for friends and family, but not everyone is always filled with the joy of the season. Sometimes there are enormously profound reasons, so open your heart and tread lightly.
From my family to yours: my son drew me a beautiful picture of a holiday tree. He gave me permission to share it with you. Happy Holidays for my Gamer.
I’m a mother, a young adult author, and sometimes DIY home decorator. Watch the blog to follow my messy life. Living every day in reality and making time to play on the other side, bringing bits of whimsy into the norm. Check out my books at your favorite on-line retailer.