How We Can Traverse Our Unavoidable Grief During The Holiday Season


Photo By: Bill Clark

In a perfect world, getting this post out sooner would have been my preference but I have been kicking back, laying low, and taking care of myself over the past several weeks since the election. It feels like a much needed respite from the craziness out there in the world. In addition to digesting the wildly unpredictable and inconceivable worldly happenings, I have been traversing the holiday season. This is my fifth holiday since Claude’s passing. Although it has certainly gotten easier, it is still not easy. For some of you it may be the first without your loved one; you may have even just lost someone you dearly love. If so, my heart goes out to you. This can be one of the most challenging parts of the year for many of us. The expectations are high. We are told “tis the season to be merry and bright”, that it is a time to surround ourselves with those that are special to us. But what if there is a special loved one who is no longer with us? What are we to do with these deep feelings of loss and grief that we are unavoidably carrying so closely in our hearts?

I would like to offer you some gifts that you can unwrap as needed during this tenuous time and beyond. I cannot take away your pain. It is yours to process through over time as we are all called to do. However, I have learned to incorporate some things into my life that have been helpful. My hope is that they will support you as well.

You can find innumerable ways to include and remember your loved ones in your holiday celebrations. Creating a ritual around their memory can feel comforting. There are many things you could do, I offer only a few. Each can be done in private or with others depending on what you feel comfortable with and what would feel supportive. It is also very important to remember to be gentle with yourself. You might want to re-think those activities that are not absolutely necessary. Choose those wisely and choose those things and people who can nourish and nurture you. This is not a time to push yourself unless it is absolutely necessary.

~During your holiday meal or gathering you could ask those that are with you if they would like to invite the memory of a passed loved one to be a part of the circle, maybe share a story or a memory. This year I did that spontaneously at our Thanksgiving meal and it seemed to meaningful not just for me but for my friends who had their own loses. It feels good to remember and to invite those who have passed to join with you.

~Lighting a candle is always a special way to honor your loved one. You could do this as a daily ritual, maybe placing it next to a favorite photo. Take a deep breath to become present in that moment, remembering and communicating with your loved one.

~You could write a letter to your loved one. Sometimes getting those feelings out can help you process and move to a place of peace. Writing and creating a journal can also be deeply healing and a way to process your unresolved emotions and grief.

~Create some space to cry, scream or yell if you need to. It is so important to honor the need to express your grief in any way you feel you need to, especially during the highly charged holiday season.

~Give yourself permission to take lots of breaks if you are with others and need some quiet time. Take walks, take time outs, get a massage, take a bath. You may need that space to breath and re-center yourself.

~Find ways to bring smiles and laughter into your world. Laughter is one the ultimate healers it helps you be in the magic of the moment. Watch funny movies or be with people who help you smile and laugh. You deserve it! It’s OK to laugh. It will not take away from your loss but can help you heal and help sooth your pain.

~Listen to inspirational music or just crank up some of your favorite tunes. Let yourself get lost in the moment of the song. It can feel so uplifting!

~Embrace gratitude. We all have many things to be grateful for each and every moment of our days. Let’s remember those things. Even if you are in the depths of your pain, even when it feels like there is no hope for survival, there are always those special gifts in our lives to help us through these times. Remember those and reside in gratitude when you are ready to dwell there.

~At a time when things feel so out of control, you could create a ritual that supports this new life without your loved one. You are in uncharted territory. Let’s create a way through this that is unique to our own individual lives purpose. Let’s chart our course. We are still here, we are still alive and well, our lives still have meaning. Let us find new ways of celebrating ourselves and the new life that lies in front of us, filled with untold mysteries yet to be experienced. Try to imagine what you would like your life to look like, to feel like. Imagine yourself living that life fully and completely with as much detail as possible.

~Lastly, we need to recognize that our passed loved ones ultimately want us to be happy and joyful even in their absence during this holiday season and beyond. Though it may not be always possible to fully embrace that joy, maybe just maybe through the tears of sorrow you could also allow your tears of Joy and gratitude for the times you had together and all the gifts that they held for you. When our loved ones pass we are also left with enumerable gifts that are yet to be discovered and unlocked as we travel through our grief. Let this knowledge wash over you. Let it comfort you one breath, one moment at a time.

Wishing you love, peace and many blessings during your holiday experience,

Cara Hope

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