Last November my grandfather passed away at the age of 94 years old. Although I miss him dearly I am at peace with the fact that he has gone to a better place and is out of any kind of pain or misery. My mother on the other hand is having a very difficult time letting go and moving on with her life. They were very close and I won’t even pretend to understand what she must be feeling or going through. After talking with her today I decided to do a little research on grief and making it through the holidays while still carrying such a huge burden. Based on the information I came across in my “studies” of the subject I understand that holidays often magnify the feelings of grief. It is important and natural to experience the emotional, physical and spiritual aspects of it. I also found that it can be very unhealthy to block those avenues of expression.
Clearly grief is an unwanted journey but it is also one that is unavoidable. It takes up a huge amount energy and requires extreme self discipline, especially during the holidays. After years of having someone in your life that you share the holidays with they become a part of what makes up that holiday. When they are no longer there, the holiday is not what it has been in years past, leaving an “empty” space in your life.
Holiday stress brings an enormous amount of stress under normal circumstances, add a little grief and you find yourself with a whole different level of stress, especially if the grief is new. Fortunately there are a few things that you can do to take an active role in making it through.
First and foremost, it is so very important to take time for yourself. Be sure not to over burden yourself with to many chores. Be careful not to isolate yourself by cutting yourself off from the support of your friends and family. Don’t try to mask your grief in order to make others happy. Grief is real and friends and family should be used to get through hard times.
Practice some relaxation techniques to help elevated stress. There are so many different ways to do that and each persons technique is different. Find out what works for you. Some suggestions are long walks, prayer, reading or writing.
Allow yourself to back slide a little bit. You can’t always be full of sunshine and you are going to cry. Holidays have a lot of magic to them but not enough to take away a pain that is as real as the grief of losing a loved one. A great way to keep your head up is to set small goals just for a day or so, then move to a week or maybe a month. The perfect goal is to find a small delight just for you each day that is unrelated to your grief. Keeping a log helps as well, being able to see what you have accomplished in writing is great inspiration.
Don’t be afraid to change something about tradition. Not having the lost loved one is one change but changing a few more things can be a good way to start making new memories!
The more you understand about the complexities of grief, the better off you will be able to make decisions for what is right for you