Holidays. They’re a time for family and friends. A time when we come together with the ones we love. But as much as we like to paint a pretty picture of the date from afar, up close, many people are dealing with a much different reality. It could be you or someone you know. It’s referred to as “the elephant in the room.” The one everyone tries to ignore, curling up their lips in a smile. As if to say “everything’s okay,” when deep down inside, their core may not match their exterior. It’s what I learned in grief counseling many years ago.
The Big C, Aids, premature heart disease and fatal car accidents. What they all have in common is that they take loved ones from our lives. These few are just a tear drop in the wave of ways they can be taken from us, the few I am intimately familiar with. I’m sure many of you out there have lost loved ones in other forms that are equally as devastating and hold just as much meaning. We blame the reaper for their loss, for doing his job, but the pain is ours to confront and accept. It’s a part of life we sometimes have a hard time accepting when it hits so close to home.
Holidays are often the time when this missing member is most apparent – the piece of your ritual that is no-longer present. The first one to two years will be the hardest. I once heard it compared to a broken limb. This is a rather good analogy. As you must learn to move and get around with a broken leg, say, in a wheel chair, allowances must be made for you to move through a room. People can no longer expect you to jump up and dance at a party. Your limbs will feel weak, achy and sore, in need of much tender care. So is the case in the loss of a loved one.
Now harboring a broken heart, if not a piece of your soul, your friends and family can’t expect you to be overflowing with glee at the holiday affair. Most likely you will not be jumping out of your seat with desires to take that dance floor. You’ll need to make adjustments for your new condition and coddle your broken self just a little.
If you or someone you know is dealing with a loss at the holidays, here are a few things that can help get through the days ahead:
❤ Find a quiet place to write out your feelings and emotions. This might sound painful, but it can help a person work through it. You may even find comfort in getting a special journal for this purpose. The writings are for working through the inner turmoil and don’t need to be shared.
❤ Give yourself permission to express what you’re feeling. This is part of the healing process. If you need to, gracefully excuse yourself from your company and find a private place to let it flow. Believe it or not, it has been scientifically proven that certain brain chemicals in our tears naturally relieve the pain.
❤ Avoid depressants. Even if everyone else at the party is having a drink, it is probably best you pass at this time. If you are already feeling down, the last thing you need is something that will help drag you lower. Grab a sparkling water or cranberry instead. It will look just as festive without the negative side-effect.
❤ Play some music that lifts your spirits. Avoid the tunes that make you melancholy and look for ones that bring you peace and happiness. Avoid songs with special attached meanings to them unless you actually find this to help you.
❤ You may be seeing a theme here, but, avoid activities that were commonly shared activities with the now deceased individual. Or at least, avoid the activities until you have a better grasp on yourself and your loss.
❤ Reading has been known to help people through these rough adjustments. A few good choices would be Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis, The Comfort Book for Those Who Mourn by Anna Trimiew or Don’t Take My Grief Away: What to Do When You Lose a Loved One by Doug Manning.
It will feel as if the world is crashing in around you in those first few days, months, even years. But it’s true what they say, it gets easier with time. It’s not that you forget or that you hurt less, but that you hurt less often. And you will, in time, be able to remember with happiness once again. Trust me, it will happen.
Something I like to do is place a candle out on special days in remembrance of the person or persons who passed on, burning it in remembrance of them. It helps keep them ever present at the event we are celebrating. Try it, you might find this ritual in its simplicity very comforting.
For those feeling the sharp pang of a missing loved one, I hope I have helped, even a little bit, guide you to a slightly better place. For those who know someone who has experienced a painful loss, hopefully this has helped you better understand where your friend or co-worker is coming from. All others, thank you for stopping in, I hope you found this post both insightful and helpful.
★ Remember, holidays are an absolutely wonderful time for friends and family. But not everyone is filled with the joy, and sometimes there are enormously great reasons for it, so open your heart and tread lightly. It’s alright if not everyone is jolly with the holiday spirit.
From my family to yours: my son, Gamer, has drawn me a beautiful picture of a holiday tree. He thought it would be alright if I shared it with all of you. So… Happy Holidays for my Gamer.