By: Robin Bradley
Thanksgiving has come and gone and sleigh bells are on every corner! People are busy making travel arrangements, selecting gifts, and planning gatherings with family and friends. For many, the holiday season is exciting and fun and brings feelings of warmth, closeness, and comfort. For many others, the holiday season is bittersweet with bright spotlights cast on tough relationships, family discord, and ongoing grief and loss.
Feelings of grief and loss can occur with the death of a loved one, broken relationships, job transitions, community disruptions, or when dealing with an unmet longing or desire. While grief can already be an isolating emotion, this feeling of being alone can be exacerbated by the sense that others are carrying on with life as if it were any other day. It can be easy to feel that you are the only one whose merriment is tinged with sadness.
If you or someone you know are walking through grief during this holiday time please try to remind yourself of these encouragements:
1) You are not alone. Although it may not be evident in others’ Instagram posts or conversations at the holiday party, many people are experiencing similar difficult emotions during this time. It is fitting to want to be close to those we love during times of celebration and understandable to feel loss in a new way during the holidays. Disappointments with jobs or relationships can be more painful when there is an expectation to share these details at family gatherings. It can help to remind yourself that you are not alone. Others’ shared pain does not minimize your own but it can help to know that it is often a shared pain indeed.
2.) Be kind to yourself. Grief has no direct path and no exact time frame. Whether your loss is chronologically recent or distant, grief can come in unexpected waves at various times. There is no “right way” to move through the difficult emotions of grief and loss and it is important to let go of ideas of how this process should look. Instead, give yourself grace to feel and experience what seems appropriate at the time.
3) Be kind to others. As mentioned above, grief is not always evident on the outside. When interacting with friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors, it can be helpful to remember that hard things can be happening of which we are unaware. Patience at the grocery store or forbearance around the dinner table can be taxing when one is already worn thin with grief or longing. Extending this kindness to others can be a helpful way to practice extending kindness to ourselves and vice versa.
4) Talk about it when you can. Sometimes fear of making others uncomfortable or even a fear of becoming emotional in a social setting can cause us to avoid mentioning our pain. At the same time, not acknowledging our loss can feel unsettling and disorienting. When possible, with trusted people in appropriate settings, consider sharing a little more about your loss or tough situation. Speaking someone’s name aloud and gathering together to share laughter and tears can be both honoring of our loved ones and important in our own process of grief and disappointment.
Processing through grief and loss can be difficult throughout the year and especially during the holidays. Surround yourself with trusted family and friends to help share the pain and remind you that you are not alone.