When Your Holidays Are Neither Merry Or Bright

When Your Holidays Are Neither Merry or Bright – Living with Grief During the Holiday Season

Alas, the holiday season is upon us. And as much as I find myself delighted by light displays as it turns dark at 4:30 pm and holiday movies streaming 24/7; I also find myself struggling with very un-holiday like emotions – sadness, powerlessness, and grief.  Norman Rockwell holiday images of “Dashing Through the Snow” be damned!

2016 has been a tumultuous year.  Geo-political conflicts aside; in my small department at work – between 6 people – we have experienced the death of 11 loved ones in addition to multiple critical illnesses of family and friends.  And while I work with an outstanding group of professionals, I know that inside, grief blankets our hearts like a heavy snowfall.  Maybe this is you too this holiday season?

I am reminded of some sage advice a dear friend gave a year ago.  He was facing his first holiday season after losing his wife and unborn child.  The loss was unexpected and unimaginable but the advice was helpful and heartfelt.  Maybe it will help you.  The advice is below and you can read his full blog post here.

If you are grieving, here are some suggestions for surviving the holiday season.

  1. Acknowledge you are grieving and the holidays may be tough. Acknowledge this to yourself and to others. It’s not simple but saying something like “I lost my wife (husband, child, aunt, etc.) this year so if I start crying, don’t worry, it’s not your company” goes a long way in letting people know your circumstances and gives you permission to feel what you need to feel.
  2. Ignore people who tell you what you “should” or shouldn’t” be doing (including yourself) unless you are paying that person a lot of money to tell you what to do–like a therapist. If you don’t have one, that’s okay but also don’t hesitate to get one if it all becomes too much. Even people who aren’t dealing with the loss of a loved one seek professional support this time of year!
  3. Give yourself a break. Be kind to yourself. Losing someone you love is like having the landscape of your life change. It will take time to figure out the new landscape–where everything is, and how it all works now. The first step is being able to open your eyes and look around at it. This can take some time. Give yourself the time.
  4. Get by with a little help from your friends. I learned that I am not alone. While I may not have my loved ones, I do have people: a lot of people who offer support, love and just their presence which allows me to grieve and more importantly, allows me to heal.