Grief and the Holidays

Grief doesn’t take a holiday.  In fact, the holidays are poignant reminders of our loss and loneliness.  As Christmas approaches, our first instinct is to retreat or withdraw, but somehow grief manages to find us.

There are several pro-active approaches that might be helpful and healing not only for ourselves but for our extended family members who are also struggling with the same loss.  Give some thought to the following:

Plan ahead.  Don’t allow Christmas to just happen.  Decide what you can handle and express that to family and friends.

Maintain, cut out or create new rituals.  If specific rituals are too painful, eliminate them for now.  No tradition or family ritual is mandatory.

Memorialize your loved one.  Mention his name in your blessing of the meal or a toast; make a donation to a charity in honor of your loved one.  Place a special ornament on the tree.

Talk about the deceased.  It’s hard but healthy.

Anticipation is often worse than reality.  The holidays will end.  Feelings will pass.  They always do.  It is an advertising illusion that holidays are perfect.  You are not a Hallmark greeting card.

Grief is a natural healing process.  If we treat it as such, then we are more likely to come through it feeling stronger.  On one hand, grief must be allowed to work its way out.  On the other, our loved ones would want us to love, laugh and celebrate the best we can.

 Barbara Kennedy, OSM