Grief. It’s difficult to carry any day. For many, grief gets heavier around the holidays.
By: Elizabeth Koth
It was around the holidays last year that my dad started to undergo a battery of tests that eventually ended with a cancer diagnosis. He went through one round of chemo in early February and passed away on February 15th…his 74th birthday. It has been just over 10 months since his passing and, as this holiday season got closer, the grief has seemed to get heavier again…the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, even the first New Year without my dad. These were days I could always count on seeing or talking to him.
No doubt about it…the holidays are looking and feeling different this year without him.
Perhaps you can empathize because you are carrying grief too. Or perhaps you know someone who is. Likely most of us fall in one of the two categories…some of us fall into both. Whether you’re experiencing heightened grief over the holidays or know someone who is, there are things we can all do to support those who may be grieving a little harder during this time of year.
If you’re grieving:
- Think about your own self-care through the holidays. Exercise, read, meditate, get a massage, take lots of deep breaths. And, by all means cry if you feel like crying. Letting the tears fall can be very therapeutic.
- Think about the loved one you’re grieving. Carry on some of the holiday traditions you may have had with them. Let their memory live on that way. Let family members or friends know what traditions you want to keep and some new ones you may want to start.
- Remember that it is okay to enjoy the holidays without your special person, too. It doesn’t erase the fact that they aren’t there, of course. Holiday grief can be a blend of wanting things to be what they once were when your loved one was alive, but also trying not to miss out on what is happening right now.
If you know someone who is grieving:
- Resist the urge to “cheer someone up”. While your intentions are pure, unconditional care is probably more what your friend or family member needs.
- Don’t shy away from their grief. Privately acknowledging that they may be hurting a little extra during the holidays will likely mean more than you know. Giving them a safe and compassionate space to talk about their special person shows great care.
- Invite your grieving friend to celebrate the holidays with you. Give them the freedom to decline. Also give them the freedom to accept the invitation and change their mind later. Grief can be tricky that way. What you feel you can or want to do one minute may change the next. Be flexible with your grieving friend/family member.
While the holidays are supposed to be a time of cheer and festivities, grief can alter all of that. The holidays are certainly different without our special people. Let’s be sure to be gentle with ourselves and others who may be walking through the holidays without them.
Here are a couple of great resources for those who are grieving:
Billy’s Place: Grief support groups in Northwest Phoenix