The Most Wonderful Time of the Year? Grieving Through the Holidays By Neil Fogarty
I was talking to a wonderful lady whose memorial we placed. Needing to do some additional work on the memorial, I called her to coordinate. Before calling, I noticed that her husband’s date of death was at the beginning of December. I explained to her that we could wait until early next year to perform the work, so her memorial was not disturbed on the anniversary of his passing. She was very grateful for the sentiment, beginning to tear up on the phone call. “This must be a difficult time for you, and I am sorry you have to go through this during the holidays,” I said. She replied through tears, “I just miss him so much, and this is such a bad time of year for this.”
This brought me back to my own memories of loss during the holiday season. In 2013 we lost my Grandad just 3 days before Christmas. He was 90 years old and had lived an amazing life; it almost seemed selfish to fell so bad about his death. However, I had lost my hero and the man I always emulated, so Christmas was about to feel very empty. We spent a quiet day at my parents’ house, dealing with the loss of my Mother’s Dad, and an anchor in the family.
So, what is a family to do when the world tells you it is the “most wonderful time of the year,” and you feel anything but wonderful. Here are a few tips to help you work through grief and enjoy the holidays at the same time.
1. Don’t pretend you are fine – We all grieve in very different ways, and suppressing that grief is unhealthy and unproductive. Go to family events intent on enjoying them the best you can yet realizing that you WILL encounter tough moments throughout the holiday events. Give yourself the ability to step away when needed.
2. Understand Motives – So few of us know what to say to someone who experiences a close death. Often, we say something awkward or potentially insensitive not knowing any better. Therefore, try to give folks around you a “pass” when the say things that trigger your emotions. Know that they are doing their best to work their way through this as well. Have the courage to let them know you appreciate the thoughts, but also let them know how their words may not be helpful the way presented. Remember to try to interact through love and believe they are doing the same.
3. Avoid being alone for long periods of time – I know, I know, in a pandemic this one can be tough; the current environment makes it very easy to isolate or become isolated. Even if it is only over FaceTime, Zoom, or Skype make sure you keep in contact and allow others to share in your grief journey and shoulder some of the grief burden with you. All of us have those people in our loves we turn to when we need them the most. During the holidays, these people become vital.
4. Stay healthy – Make sure you are exercising, eating as well as you can (considering Thanksgiving through New Years doesn’t provide the best environment for healthy eating!) and make sure you plenty of rest.
5. MOST IMPORTANTLY – encourage others to share stories about the departed during events. Often, zany stories about Uncle Joe or Grammy Adams can bring laughter, even if mixed with tears. By sharing memories, we collective grieve and collectively heal all at the same time.
I truly hope these suggestions help you navigate this holiday season if you are grieving. May you have a Blessed Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, and New Years and remember, things will never be the same, but they will get better and they will get easier.