Can I take a quick break from the shiny bright lights to talk about something a little dark? Grief during the holidays. It is an unbelievable reality for so many. While I can keep it dormant most parts of the year, it seems to awaken as the leaves change and remains through the start of the new year. If you’re not missing anyone this season, bless you. For the rest of us, it can be unrelenting.
For perspective, I’ve lost both of my parents and that’s what tugs at my heart today. My parents were the best (duh). They both loved Christmas and between the lit up yard, the inside decorations and a full tree surrounded by gifts, my parents did everything to make this season magical for my family. I get nostalgic over the “simple” days, I feel sad that I can’t share the season with them anymore and I feel sorry for my kids that they have no recollection of these awesome people. Lucky for me, most of my grief is surrounded with good memories and lots of love. I know that’s not the case for everyone.
Maybe you harbor resentment, regret or anger about your loss. If your loss was sudden, was due to tragedy, or self-inflicted, I do not pretend to know your pain but I can assure you that you are not alone.
If grief is anything, it’s unpredictable. You may be feeling six feelings at once; none of them being Christmas joy. And that’s ok. For a bit. But in order to enjoy the life that still lies ahead of you, it’s necessary to identify those feelings to work through them. If you want to salvage the relationships in your life, this is pretty important too. I spent a fair amount of time sitting on the “life isn’t fair pity-pot” and it gets old after a while; for you and the people around you.
These are things I’ve learned as I work through my own grief this time of year.
- My husband is not a mind reader. If I get sad while looking at old pictures or while putting up the decorations, I need to just say so. It’s not fair to make him my target just because I’m sad. It’s not his fault that he doesn’t know what loss feels like and it certainly wouldn’t be fair to resent him for that. When I communicate that I’m having a hard day, we work so much better together.
- My kids will remember how they felt, not what I bought them. I remember feeling the static of love surrounding this holiday and I pray my kids remember the same. A PlayStation and a bitter mom will not give my kids good memories of Christmas. Snuggles and watching Home Alone for the umpteenth time, will.
- We are not guaranteed another day and nothing can change the loss that has occurred. I cannot live in the past, wishing for a different life. I can only wrestle with wanting to change the past for so long before I feel defeated and hopeless. The only person in charge of me loving my life from this point forward, is me.
- Continuing some traditions keep my parents alive in my heart and I find joy in that. I listen to the Kenny and Dolly Christmas album almost exclusively while wrapping gifts and I use some decorations that were my mom’s. My sisters and I still fill stockings for each other because it’s one of our favorite memories from our childhood. However…..
- New traditions are important and change is ok. The most joy has come from creating fun traditions with my own kids and husband, with my extended family and even my neighbors. I find new memories to make so that I don’t feel compelled to live in the past, but look forward to the future.
It’s always important to acknowledge your feelings but equally important to choose to bring gratitude alongside the grief. I will join you with a box of tissues and a good cry. Then let’s look up, look ahead and enjoy the love that life still has to offer. After all, I still believe that it’s the most wonderful time of the year!
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