At this point in our lives we have each lost someone we’ve loved.
Whether it’s been a parent, a grandparent, a sibling, a spouse, or, quite possibly, a child, grief is a beast when it comes to the holidays.
Unfortunately, there is no real way around it.
It presents itself in many ways.
Decorating the house – we stumble across an ornament purchased on a special trip together.
Singing holiday songs – we hear their voice so clearly in our heads and hearts.
Certain scents and flavors – the smell and taste of freshly baked goods can bring us instantly back.
Photographs – we recognize that someone is missing when it’s time for the family photos. The holiday cards. We no longer sign two names, but just one.
Grief has no timeline. It does not matter when the person you lost passed on, you’re still missing them as much as if it had happened yesterday.
Five Ways to Process Your Grief This Holiday Season
- Embrace your memories. It isn’t always easy, but remember them. Look back at pictures. Share memories with friends and family. Watch the old recordings of Christmas morning. It’s a beautiful life you shared with that person. You’re absolutely supposed to remember it.
- Give yourself time. Yes, it may have been years since your loved one passed away. That doesn’t matter. Don’t let anyone instruct you to leave your grief at the door when you enter their celebration. You are who you are because this person touched your life. Missing them is a part of you now.
- Pay respects. Often we notice it’s been some time since we’ve found a way to pay respects to the person we’ve lost. Whether it’s going to their grave, heading to a place of worship, making a donation in their memory. These are things that remind us how our lives were touched by theirs.
- Call someone who loved them, too. The odds are that you’re not the only one missing your loved one. Reach out to those around you who were also a part of their life. Connect. Share memories. Laugh together. Cry together. Talk to them. You can both benefit from this.
- Laugh AND cry. Because both are expressions of emotion. You’re feeling love and you’re feeling loss. Both are perfectly okay right now.
Losing a loved one is never easy, and grief is, as I mentioned, a beast all on its own. But if you can find small ways to remember them through the holiday season you might find it a little less painful to move forward without them there. And most importantly, be gentle with yourself. A loss is a loss, no matter when it happens. Show yourself some grace as you experience your pain and joys. They often do arrive hand in hand.
Andrea Bates is an LCSW in North Carolina who shares frequently on her own blog, Good Girl Gone Redneck. She can also be found volunteering to support mothers in their early postpartum stage and working with adults who have medical issues that impact their well-being.