The fall holiday season…they are supposed to make us think of words like “thankful,” “merry” or this one, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
However, for us, the holidays are a painful reminder of a loved one’s absence – of a hole in our hearts, of a hole in our lives, of being broken and in pain. During what is regularly perceived as a fun time of traditions and nostalgia, for those of us who are grieving, we feel especially overwhelmed and emotionally devastated. We yearn to go back to a time “that was,” and we hurt.
This time of year, people gather, celebrate at work, there are TV specials and the Hallmark movies—24 hours a day in our faces if we choose it. These things are also vivid reminders to us that this is NOT us. And let’s get real, the holidays are exhausting even under the best of circumstances! Add to this that grief takes 60% of our energy OFF THE TOP and yikes.
So here we are. It’s “the holidays” and we are grieving. When we embrace our grief, give it a voice, and allow our pain to surface, we can experience healing and transformation. When we allow the feelings of grief to flow through us and allow them to connect with our loved ones who have gone before us, we can use these holiday times to heal.
Heal? Really? How?
We continue to LOVE.
- Start with YOU. Be kind to YOU! Seriously, remember the oxygen mask goes on you first! Give yourself the gift of permission to “be.” Just be. Also it is important that you ask for what you need. I know personally this is easier said than done but let’s try, ok? Ok.
- Eliminate unnecessary stressors. Watch out for being “too busy.” You really DON’T have to do it all. We need balance between being busy and talking about/feeling our grief.
- Having down time is ok. This takes practice for some of us, and it can also be scary because then the thoughts and feelings come. This is ok because you need to.
- Feel your feelings and express them. No grief, no healing. KNOW grief, KNOW healing. We love; therefore, we grieve, and crying is ok!
- Break the silence. Speak your loved one’s name(s), as often as possible. It’s better to create an atmosphere of connection through sadness (everyone is feeling it) versus alienation by pretending everything is “ok” or “fine.”
- Tweak traditions. It’s ok to change things up or to not do something you’ve always done or to do something new.
- Implement a 15- or 20-minute rule. Go out to events, but give yourself a timeframe, and remember—when you are grieving, your energy level is already tapped.
- Exercise and drink lots of water. MOVE around. It’s important to stay hydrated and flush out toxins such as excess cortisol, the stress hormone that contributes to not being able to concentrate and leads to you feeling rundown.
- B-R-E-A-T-H-E. Do 4×4 breaths. Deep inhale for four seconds and deep exhale for four seconds.
- Remember that healing is a journey. It takes time. Think of an actual wound. Did it heal instantly? Did it ever get re-injured? AND please, please know that you aren’t alone on this healing journey!
- Practice personal grief rituals. These are activities that help us remember our loved ones. They give us a sense of connectedness, healing, and peace. Examples could be buying a special candle and lighting it in memory of your loved one, getting a vase (or an ornament) and filling it with “memories” of your loved one, planting a flower or hanging a windchime, journaling, making a scrapbook, releasing balloons, burning bad memories or regrets. Remember something funny and laugh. It’s ok to laugh and have an enjoyable time even when you are grieving!
Please note that these suggestions are for YEAR-ROUND holidays as, let’s be real, there are holidays every month. By taking care of you, you heal.