The holiday season is just around the corner. It is often a time for celebration, reflection, and connection with loved ones. For many, it is also a difficult reminder of personal grief and loss. These losses might involve people or relationships. Some common experiences around this time of year include:
- Resentment towards others who have not experienced the same kind of loss
- Increasing anxiety
- Avoiding others
- Feeling guilty
If this is true for you, you’re not alone. It is normal and common. Feelings of grief often become stronger on significant dates during the year. This doesn’t mean you aren’t grieving properly or that you just haven’t gotten over it. It just means that you’re more likely to be thinking about what you have lost during these times. It makes sense you would feel a greater sense of sadness.
It is possible to experience joy this time of year in spite of your grief. Here are a few suggestions that you might find helpful.
- Give yourself permission to grieve. It’s normal to grieve. In addition, everyone’s grief looks different, so don’t compare your experiences to anyone else’s. Your grief is unique to you. If you see grief as dysfunctional, you will add feelings of shame and guilt to the loss you already feel.
- Grieve intentionally. Set aside time to think about what you miss – past holidays, traditions, etc. Allow yourself to feel the emotion. Then have something specific planned to help you transition into the rest of the day such as calling a friend, leaving the house, running an errand, etc. Not only is trying to avoid grief is exhausting, but you will likely end up spending the day thinking of little else. Instead of avoiding it, it will consume you.
- Feeling joy is OK. Other parts of the holiday can be joyful and fun. Allowing yourself to feel joy does not mean you don’t care about what you are grieving. It doesn’t mean you miss people or relationships any less. It simply means that you also have room to love and appreciate those around you.
- Be around others. Avoid being isolated. It’s important to feel connected to those around us. Reach out to others and don’t be afraid to share your feelings with those you trust. It’s important to feel others expressing their care and love for us. It’s also a great reminder that you are not alone.
- Serve others. Volunteer during the season in a food pantry or other community resource. Participate in a Giving Tree or Christmas Angel project. Make some baked goods for your local Fire Station. Reach out to another friend in need. Give to others as a way of highlighting your sense of purpose. Create positive experiences for you and others around you.
For many, the holiday season is often a mixture of joy and sadness. It’s hard to imagine getting to a place where we don’t ever miss people and relationships we held dear. The idea of closure is misleading. We will always feel a sense of grief when we lose something or someone important to us. However, we can experience acceptance. This allows us to experience loss without feeling stuck in it.
Using these suggestions doesn’t eliminate grief, but it can help to make room for some of the more joyful parts of the season. As we approach the holiday season, I hope these ideas help you find joy and happiness in the midst of your grief.