Confronting Grief During the Holiday Season
The holiday tunes claim that it's "the most wonderful time of the year". But, for those who are experiencing grief in the wake of losing a loved one, Christmas can be anything but a joyous time. Suddenly, the holidays seem like more of a chore than a celebration. We are flooded with memories of our loved ones with a seemingly infinite void that they once filled.
For the first Christmases after my mom and brother passed away, my dad and I did everything in our power to avoid holidays. It was easier to go without any reminders of our loved ones and the hollow feeling of grief. It is completely fair to feel this way, we shouldn't feel pressure to be happy during this time. Although it feels cliche to say, I know it's true, that the most helpful thing is giving yourself time.
As the years pass by, I find myself slowly adjust to the "new normal" that so many grief book tout as the end goal. Over time, I have found myself going hours without crying, then sometimes days, and the next thing you know it has been over a month since my last panic attack and I find myself being able to talk about old memories without hearing my voice crack at the back of my throat as I hold back tears. It's not to say that I'm completely healed; however, I can say that I am better than I was a year ago and even better than I was the year before that.
Grieving is a lifelong process. We shouldn't be aiming to be "normal" again, because, lets be honest, were we ever normal to begin with? Is there really such a thing as a "normal", perfect, untainted human being? I don't think so. We never stop healing and growing (the former and latter being simultaneously dependent on one another).
It has taken me almost 8 years to come to an acceptance with my losses. This is not to say I'm completely healed, I know this will remain a life long battle of both failure and growth. But, I feel that I can say that I am much more in control of the feelings that I have towards my losses. I am no longer overwhelmed with grief and can truly appreciate the affect of these people in my live.
In the past year, I have come to the realization that although these people have passed on from the physical world, they are still present in every single one of my actions. I would be nothing like the person who I am today without the influence of my Mom and brother. Rather than feeling hopeless and alone during the holidays, I have realized how lucky I was to feel the love that my mom and brother gave me and am still able to pass these sentiments onto others. I started putting my energy towards appreciating the people I still have and I realized how lucky I am to still have my amazing dad, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. When I started to think about I have (rather than what I don't) I was overwhelmed with a feeling of gratitude and love.
If you are feeling alone during the holidays I encourage you to honour your loved ones over the holiday season by spreading love and kindness. The last thing the world needs is more suffering. The best thing we can do to combat helplessness is to find a way to cultivate joy in those around us.
Please share this article with people who have lost a loved one, so they know you're thinking about them and to remind them that they are not alone.