The holidays are just around the corner. Among gatherings with family and friends, holiday celebrations, and ringing in the new year, it can feel contradictory to be grieving while everyone else is joyful.
During these times, you may notice heightened discomfort and suffering. It may feel as if your grief resurfaces during the holidays. These feelings can happen even if you haven’t experienced a recent death loss; it may have been several months or even years since your person died, and you may be tired of the same waves of grief that never subside entirely. If you’ve experienced a recent death loss, the pain and suffering can be even more intense. Acknowledging that grief can surface during the holiday season is vital. Regardless of your situation, your feelings are entirely normal.
The Contradiction of Grief and Celebration
The paradox of grieving while others celebrate, often within the same family, can be isolating. You might feel as though nobody truly comprehends your pain. You might worry about dampening the holiday spirit of those around you. We are here to tell you that isolation or concealing your emotions are not the only choices.
Naturally, some of us opt to be alone as much as possible, avoiding holiday festivities. Others may go through the motions and move through December on autopilot. Another common choice is to hide your emotions, acting as if you aren’t suffering and making an effort to conceal your pain from others.
It’s essential to recognize that these responses while providing temporary relief, can become problematic when they become our only coping mechanisms.
How to Cope with Grief During the Holiday
Accepting and even expecting our pain is a significant step toward embracing our humanity. You may feel guilty for experiencing sadness, while those around you may try to distract or keep you occupied to alleviate it. Pain is a part of life, and rather than eradicating grief, it’s healthier to integrate it into your life, especially during the holiday season. To help you navigate grief during the holidays, here are a few ideas:
Plan and Organize
Consider your energy levels and choose which events to attend. You don’t have to participate in everything, but some gatherings — like family holiday celebrations — may be essential. You don’t need to engage in activities you don’t wish to, and it’s perfectly acceptable to seek support. You don’t have to shoulder everything, especially if it feels burdensome.
Continue with Traditions
While grief involves change and adaptation, some traditions can remain. However, maintaining these traditions doesn’t mean preserving everything as it was. Adapting them to fit different circumstances is sometimes necessary. For example, if prayer is significant to your family, and your person was responsible for leading prayers, it doesn’t mean you should stop praying; you can assign someone else to lead prayers in remembrance of your person.
New Year’s Day is a great moment to embrace a new tradition. Consider the symbolism of the new year as a time for new chapters and fresh beginnings. Many people often feel stuck when contemplating a new start without their person. We invite you to join The HealGrief® & AMF community, where new beginnings are possible.
Surround Yourself with People
Humans need other people. Isolating yourself might be an initial impulse, but it’s not beneficial to do it all the time. Remember that we need to support each other. Consider creating a shared memory of your absent person with family or friends. Each person will bring a unique perspective, painting a more complete picture of your person.
Confide in someone you trust about your feelings. You may not need them to say anything; simply expressing yourself can provide relief. Be open to supporting and comforting others as well.
Give a Place to the Person Who’s No Longer Present
Keep the person who’s no longer present in your mind and heart. Doing so may be contrary to what others advise, but grieving and healing are not about turning the page and moving on with your life. It’s about incorporating the memory of that person into your life.
Feeling content or celebrating during the holidays doesn’t diminish the memory of your person. We remember them not only through our sadness but also through our actions, our attitudes, and cherished memories.
Everyone has their unique way of experiencing grief, and that process unfolds in its own time. Even if a lot of time has passed, people stay with us. Honoring their memory can be as simple as continuing to eat their favorite food or remembering how much they enjoyed the holidays.