Surviving grief during the holidays

Thursday, December 19, 2019
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All of us deal with the loss of a loved one differently. But for many people, it seems the holidays make that empty chair at the table seem so much bigger.

I do not claim to be an expert of any kind, but I do carry the weight of grief. I lost my husband four and a half years ago.

I believe healing from the loss of someone close to you is a lifelong journey.

The pain lessens and we can heal from the heartache. But at this point in my journey I feel as though I am not so much healing as I am getting used to him not being around. I have sad moments and emotional breakdowns. I think about him often.

One of the most important things you need to remember is that everyone grieves differently, but there are things we can do to cope with the sting of the holidays. I would like to share some of the wisdom I was given over the last few years.

One of the greatest pieces of advice that I received was to begin grief counseling. I don’t think I would be who I am now if I had not gone to counseling.

If you cannot access a counselor, I hope you can confide your feelings in a close friend or relative or maybe a grief support group.

Another piece of advice I utilized was to stay busy. I did not have the drive to do any of my regular hobbies or activities the first few years after I lost my husband. However, I did find other activities to keep me busy. I read a lot of books. I walked. I started to meditate. Those are a few things that might help ease your mind.

The next bit of advice I always remember is to take time for myself. Just because it is the holidays, and family and friends are everywhere, it does not mean we need to engage with people and activities all the time.

For me, personally, I had heightened anxiety when there were more than three people around. Taking time out to recharge was crucial.

Next, do not feel guilty for experiencing joy. There is happiness around the holidays, feel that joy. Whether it’s for your kids or your family or for yourself. Your loved one would surely not want you to be sad all the time.

Another important thing, I think, is to scream, cry, shout, yell or hit pillows. Do something productive to help release the emotions that you cannot express with words. Then gather yourself and keep on keeping on. You cannot wear a happy face all the time; you need to validate your feelings.

It’s considered taboo in my culture as a Native American to speak of someone who has passed on. Beyond cultural norms there are general social norms that leave many people uncomfortable bringing up the topic of a loved one who has passed. But it’s okay.

I think about my husband. I talk about him. Sometimes I speak to him. I want to remember everything about him, his stories, his laugh and his goofy jokes. So I talk about him. It helps me remember that at one time he was mine.

Do something to honor your loved during the holidays; whether it’s a special ornament for the tree or a time set aside for the family to share memories.

Lastly, be kind to everyone. No one escapes grief. The losses in our lives affect every aspect of our lives as we move forward.

I am not afraid to talk about my journey, so if you see me in the street, do not be afraid to say hello and don’t be afraid to have a happy holiday season.