Grieving Through the Holidays
By Amanda Beck
Grief is one of those things in life that can make a person feel swallowed by the world and empowered to live in each moment, sometimes at the same time. Though sometimes painful, grief is a human experience that for most is inevitable at some point in life. For many, the grief can be a sharp or acute sort of pain, while for others it can be a dull ache, and everywhere in between. It can bring people together and it can be the loneliest feeling in the world. There can be many triggers or reminders of a loss and this can ring especially true during the holiday season where family and friends are celebrated in closeness. This can sometimes leave a griever with a feeling of cognitive dissonance (a psychology term meaning a state of inconsistent beliefs, attitudes, or thoughts). It can often feel hard to celebrate a holiday when you are dealing with feelings of sadness and grief for a life lost, especially when the person lost was typically a part of the festivities.
If this sounds like you, you may be wondering, “How can I manage my grief during the holidays?” Grief is often a very personal thing for people and can express itself in many ways, but coping with grief can also be personal and expressed in many ways. A common thing I hear from clients is that they are worried they (or the world) will forget their loved one. Often as time passes memories can fade or go away completely and it’s common for a person to worry that this could happen to memories of their loved one. As a result, one thing that helps some people cope is simply to talk about their lost loved one. Sharing those memories out loud and with others can help to solidify a memory as well as the opportunity for someone to learn something new about the deceased that they may not have known before.
Similarly, people have also kept a special memory journal (often both the good and bad memories) to help them remember their loved one who has passed. Funny quotes, situations the person found themselves in, favorite restaurants, trips that were taken, and even little habits or nuances about the deceased can often help a person feel closer to their loved one and ease that concern of lost memories. Lately there has been an uptick in Facebook memorials (and other social media sites) which allow many people to share stories, pictures, and memories about the deceased in a shared forum. Some have expressed how this can be helpful for them as that isolation that is so often associated with grief is able to be broken down a bit and it can allow a person to connect with others who share their loss.
For some, it helps to do something special in remembrance of the loved one who died. Some ideas may look like setting a spot at the table with the person’s picture, saying a special prayer for the person if they were (or you are) religious, making their favorite meal or dessert, playing their favorite game, or even listening to their favorite music. For those with traditions, this could look like finding ways to incorporate the memory of a person into a tradition like lighting a candle in honor of their memory. Perhaps most importantly, it can help to get to know your own needs and coping skills so that you may be able to navigate the holidays in a way that feels right for you. Reaching out and asking for help when it’s needed is one thing a grieving person can do when they are struggling. And for those who are not grieving, the holidays are a great time to reach out to a friend who has lost someone and check in to let them know that you are thinking of them and that they are not alone for the holidays.
Amanda Beck M.A. LPC-C is a staff therapist at Edmond Family Counseling. Edmond Family Counseling is a non-profit organization. We may be reached at 405-341-3554 to schedule an appointment with one of our licensed professional therapists. Donations may be made to Edmond Family Counseling, 1251 N. Broadway, Edmond, OK 73034 or online @www.edmondfamily.org by clicking the YELLOW DONATE button. Follow us and like our Facebook Page @Edmond Family Counseling for additional information regarding mental health awareness.