Stifling hot, wrapping paper flying, kids screaming, and the smell of the saltiest dinner spread in the air! I spent every Christmas Eve for 30 years crowded into my Grandmother’s west side home with 30+ family members. I know what you are thinking, “Sam, that sounds like a perfect Holiday!” Ok, maybe you aren’t thinking that, but it was perfect to me.
Most people say they don’t like change but hear me when I say, I REALLY don’t like change. My parents’ divorce, starting college, moving, changing jobs; these transitions wrecked me. Each year I craved the familiarity of the holiday season… but change is inevitable. My Grandmother passed over a year ago and my family’s home of 70 years was put up for sale. Now this holiday serves as a painful reminder of what I have lost.
Out of fear of sounding ungrateful, I want to mention that there have been incredible blessings, beyond anything I could have anticipated, over the last year as well. However, I can be brimming with appreciation for my life while also experiencing deep sorrow.
So, how do we deal with those twinges (or tidal waves) of grief during what is supposed to be the most joyful time of the year?
Getting Through Grief During The Holiday
• Don’t fake it. No matter what emotion you are experiencing, tell yourself it’s okay to feel that way. Grief is complicated and you may feel pain, sadness, anger, relief and guilt. If your relationship with your loved one was tumultuous, there may be things about them that you don’t miss. Maybe a huge burden was lifted for you if you were acting as a caretaker.
• Communicate. Talk to your family ahead of time so everyone is on the same page. There will be a void to fill with the passing of your loved one. Figure out who is going to make Aunt Pat’s casserole and who is going to play Santa this year.
• Decide which traditions to keep and which to change. Along with loss comes the opportunity to shake traditions up. Hold onto those traditions that bring a smile to your face – favorite recipes, songs, or crafts. If there was a tradition you begrudgingly participated in to satisfy your loved one, it’s okay to let that go. Consider new traditions in honor of your loved one; such as, lighting a candle, writing or reciting a poem or creating an ornament made in their memory.
• Respect your needs. If you aren’t feeling up to your annual holiday work party, decline the invitation. Feeling overwhelmed at an event? Sneak out early. It’s okay to skip gift giving this year if you don’t have the energy or resources.
Set an intention to be gentle with yourself as you grieve during this holiday season. We are in this together!