Honoring Grief During the Holidays
Updated: May 9
As some of you may know, a year ago today my stepfather passed away unexpectedly. As the one year anniversary approached, I began to reflect on what it means to grieve and how to honor that during the holiday season. I know … it seems like a bit of a delayed reaction to be thinking about grieving almost a year later; however, I recognize and acknowledge we all grieve differently.We each have our own unique process that needs space to be honored.
As the holidays approach, it’s a bittersweet time. It is a time full of love and joy, but also mixed with this reminder that my dad is no longer here. What I remind myself most is to have the same amount of compassion for myself as I would with any friend or family member experiencing grief. And I don't know about ya'll , but for me that’s (wayyyyy) easier said than done.
Learning to live with grief has been an incredible learning experience for me. I have learned in depth the true meaning of compassion and empathy. I have learned that it’s ok to not be ok. I have also learned that it’s not going to kill me if I let my guard down and let other people know I am not ok. I have learned the that my strength runs deeper than I had ever imagined. I learned to accept that death is a part of life and that in each death comes a new beginning.
My relationship with grief has been an interesting one. As I tend to be a person that avoids intense emotions, it’s been a bit touch and go over the last year – and I suspect that will continue. (I’ve also learned to be ok with that.) It’s those little reminders that can be the most painful – the weird piece of street art that reminds me of my dad, not having him here to make inappropriate jokes with, or no longer being able to send him random text messages with an absurd amount of nonsensical emojis.
I had the privilege of asking a dear friend and peer coach of mine, Dr. Cheryl Hardy, for a few thoughts and tips that I wanted to share with you all:
“When dealing with grief give yourself permission to feel the way you feel. One thing that is strongly suggested is not to compare your grief and grieving period to someone else. The holidays bring on memories that is difficult for many, if you can change those lonely memories and think about the joyous occasions it will make you feel better. Holidays can be a time of reflections when we can celebrate our loves ones, by lighting a candle, wearing their favorite color or having moments just smiling at their picture.
Things to do for self-care during the holidays:
1. Take the time to relax your mind with soothing music
2. Get plenty of rest, because grief is emotionally draining
3. Socialize with positive people
4. Treat yourself with the gift of being present in your life, no worries about the past, no anxieties about the future, enjoy the present moment.”
I truly appreciate these words of wisdom. We often feel like there should be a time limit to grieving and even try and have an idea of what it looks and feels like. Giving permission to feel what is coming up for you and honoring that is incredibly important. I also want to acknowledge that grief may come from a variety of sources aside from the loss of a loved one – it may the passing of a beloved pet, a relationship ending, change in life circumstances, changes in tradition, etc.
Remember to give yourself the space to be with these feelings of grief, no matter where they come from. Be as gentle and loving with yourself as you would with anyone else you care about. I encourage you to trust your intuition on the best way to process and experience your grief. Something that worked for you last year may not work for you this year - and that’s ok. Maybe you want to change up your traditions or holiday routine and do something different – and that’s ok too.
For anyone experiencing grief this holiday season, I want you to know that you are not alone. I see you, I hear you, and I am with you. I have an incredible amount of love and respect for you. Honor where you are and take the experience one day, one step, one moment at a time.
Sending you light, love, and joy this holiday season...