Holidays after Loss

lossI suppose I could have easily titled this “Life After Loss,” but the holidays are harder. Life is more chaotic, pressures are higher, and expectations sometimes run right through the roof. In our minds, we’re not supposed to feel sad while celebrating with friends and family! That usually means we top off our grief with a large side of guilt. Welcome to a feast of misery for the holidays.

Losing someone significant hurts. It just does. Sometimes, in my job, I find myself comforting kindergarteners after a long holiday because they’re crying for mom. I may be the only adult in the building who will tell them that it’s ok to be sad — the hurt tells us how much we love them and how special they are to us. I hope, if you are missing someone significant during this holiday season, that you will set aside a few moments just to honor the pain and the grief that you will not be sharing these special moments with them this time. It’s ok! It’s normal! Deep hurt is how you know you also possess deep love.

After acknowledging the pain and the grief, find a way to focus on the here and now. Going back to my kindergarteners, I don’t just escort them to class after validating their feelings. They have to move forward, even though it hurts. They are going to have a really bad day if they go into class and bawl their eyes out for a couple more hours! The same principle holds true for adults. After we have personally validated our pain, we have to find a way to move forward.

I ask my kindergarteners if they know why mommy would send them to school when they are so sad to go. We talk briefly about how important learning is, and then I ask them if they think mommy would be really happy to find out that they made up their mind to have a good day and learn a lot. I don’t try to take away the pain — I try to help them have a goal to focus on to get them through the pain.

So, you have my most heartfelt sympathy if you are making your way through this holiday season while carrying the burden of pain and grief. Please, go to the cemetary if you need to and talk with your deceased loved one for a while! Go for a long walk, take a long bath, have a long talk with a mutual friend. Honor who that person was and what they still mean to you.

Then, focus on the business at hand. Allow yourself to opportunity to recognize that it will be harder this year, but give yourself some goal that will pull you through. It could be just being extra mindful of how much joy you feel with the people you are with this year. It may be moving forward for your own sake, or because that is what your loved one would want. Find someone who can support you and give you extra encouragement as you need it.

Best wishes to you during the holidays!

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