So here we are again – the holiday season, that time of year when we are all supposed to be jolly and joyful. There are so many people who struggle during this time. The holiday season is especially difficult for those who are grieving a loss. The loss of a loved one does not have to be recent to be particularly painful during the holidays. When a loved one dies during the holiday season, not only do you have to grieve through that season, but every year the anniversary brings it all back, an extraordinarily painful process. It does not matter what time of year a loved one dies, the holidays remind us deeply of our loss. The sights, sounds, and smells can transport us instantly to the past. The traditions that we once found comforting can trigger emotions we are able to keep in check, for the most part, at other times of the year.
My Mom loved Christmas! My memories of family holidays are special to me. Some of our traditions I have continued with my children. I have established some new traditions through the years as well. My mother died ten days before Christmas, 27 years ago, after a brief and brutal illness. That first Christmas we celebrated, but there was no missing the void in our family. The years have passed and our family has grown, with the addition of spouses and children. Our extended family all still gather together to celebrate on Christmas Eve, which was our tradition as children. Even after all of these years, my mother is still deeply missed and mourned at Christmas. It is a testament to human adaptability that we do go on, we do celebrate and feel joy – alongside the grief. To honor my Mom, I began decorating my Christmas tree on the anniversary of her death. Decorating the tree was always a special thing for my Mom, she was very particular about it. My family and I enjoy hanging the ornaments handed down from my childhood tree, along with those we have collected through the years.
As a medium, I often tell clients that their loved ones are with them as they celebrate holidays and milestones with family. I absolutely know this to be true. In the quiet, peaceful times during this season, I always take a moment to talk to my Mom. I pray for her and her journey on the higher side. I tell her how much I miss her presence in my physical life. The feelings of loss still come in waves. I know from personal experience that the grief does not ever go away, but it does get more bearable with the passage of time. So, yes, I do still have days during this joyous season when I am not feeling particularly social or jolly. The sharp knife of grief can strike out of the blue, when least expected, triggered by a sight, a song, or even a scent. I have developed some strategies over the years, which help me cope with the inevitable, human emotions.
I have some rituals (like decorating my tree on my Mom’s anniversary date) that honor her and her place in my heart, though she is no longer here physically. I speak openly, though sometimes tearfully, of her to my children and extended family. The surprises, like hearing her favorite song at a party or the like, cannot be avoided but at those times I take a deep breath and take it as a message from the universe that she is around. On those occasions when I feel frozen or stuck in it, I ask God to help me to get through it, I pray for strength. Personally, I also find it helpful to do for others during this season, volunteer work forces me to be involved and exposed to the holiday joy. Give yourself permission to say no to those gatherings or activities you just cannot do. It is okay to do what works for you – to take care of you. Finally, my number one feel better strategy is to get outside. I live in New England, its cold, sometimes beautiful, and always cleansing and a great respite for me to get out and take a walk. You will find your own ways to navigate the season.
I extend to all of you my deepest sympathies on the loss of your loved ones. I encourage you to express yourself to the people around you. As always, I encourage you to communicate with the departed as well. I can say with confidence that it does get easier, and becomes a part of you as life goes on. Take your time. Grief is a very individual journey, and we each have an individual path. Please be gentle with yourself and your feelings throughout the holiday season. Only you know what you are ready for and can handle. Allow yourself the feelings as they come. I hope that as time passes the pain becomes easier to bear. For me, the years have lightened the load, and, for the most part, brought a return to the joy and peace of the holiday season. Lets just be aware that not everyone is in the same emotional space during the holidays and be respectful of and kind to each other.
Shine your light brightly during the holiday season!