Grief During the Holidays

Written By: MaryKate Lesar, Information and Referral Specialist

“Life tossed us up into the air, scattered us, and we all somehow found our way back. And we will do it again. And again.” Alexandra Bracken

As the holidays are upon us, it is hard to ignore the “togetherness” that this season represents. The holidays mark the end of a long year, which is oftentimes celebrated in the presence of family, but what happens when you’ve suffered a great loss and that family unit doesn’t feel the same anymore? This can be one of the most difficult times for the grieving and holidays can amplify the loss you’ve experienced.

Maybe this time of year signifies a painful anniversary, or is a harsh reminder of the empty seat in your home. Maybe you are just hoping and praying for this season to end and that you make it out unscathed. The sadness and loneliness can be suffocating. Rather than avoiding those feelings of grief, lean into them. It’s important to feel your emotions as they arise versus trying to suppress or ignore them. Grief is pain, but grief is also an indicator of the love you have in your heart for your loved one.

This holiday season may look different for you this year and we want to make sure you are equipped with confidence to not only survive, but to enjoy it as best you can.

It’s important to remember that:

 – It’s okay to set healthy boundaries. You’re allowed to say both “yes” and “no” to invites, visitors, phone calls, outings, etc. Talk with trusted friends and family to let them know how you’re feeling. You are in the driver’s seat.

 – It’s okay to feel happy. You might feel guilty or that it’s unfair for you to experience happiness this season because your loved one is gone, but it’s okay to smile and feel joy. Your feelings may ebb and flow and you’re allowed to feel both of them at any given moment. There is no way around grief, but when you experience a glimmer of happiness; relish in it and don’t punish yourself for it.

 – It’s okay to honor memories while creating new traditions. Making new memories does not erase old memories. In fact, you can participate in some older traditions to keep your loved ones’ memories alive and remember them while also creating new traditions that may help to heal a small piece of your grieving heart. Remember that your loved one would want you to enjoy the holidays, even if it feels impossible to do so.

 – It’s okay to ask for help when you’re struggling. Seek support from those around you if you feel as though you’re hitting a wall. You are loved and people in your life want to help and support you through this time. This time of year brings up a multitude of challenging emotions and you may not be able to get through it alone; that’s okay!

The holiday season isn’t as joyous or merry as we may want it to be, especially when you are missing such a big part of your life. There is no right or wrong way to face the holidays after losing a loved one and I hope that if you feel happiness this season – you allow it to wash over you. I hope that if you feel sadness this season – it is fleeting. Be gentle with yourself and take it one step at a time.

Happy Holidays.