Grief and the Holidays

There’s no way around it, it’s just really, really hard. This time of year is so painful and difficult for so many. And you will get through it. You may not get through it well, you may feel awful or just melancholy. You may not feel like it was successful, but you will get through, and you are not alone.

Last year the holidays were incredibly difficult for me and for us. After over 10 years of wanting to have children, one of the most exciting events I was looking forward to, when I found out I was pregnant, was Christmas. Christmas feels incredibly isolating when you are the only couple in your family without children, and year after year, the kids get older, and yours still haven’t come yet. And everything that is depicted in our society and on social media is all about kids and families during the holidays. This is hurtful for so many, not just those who do not have children, but those who have lost, who are not on speaking terms with their adult children, adult children who have lost their parent or parents, and for so so many others. The outward message we get is that the holidays are a joyful time. For many, nothing could be further from the truth. They are often painful and full of sadness.

I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have a few tips that might help. Or they might not. Everyone’s experience with grief and sadness around the holidays is different. So take what feels good to you and feel free to leave the rest.

By the way, this is for ANYONE who feels the holidays are a hard time of year. You don’t have to be experiencing grief to feel sad or lonely during the holidays. You don’t have to be mourning to feel like you just can’t leave the house or get to that party. This is for anyone who is hurting. Your feelings are real and they are valid and they deserve to be felt.

Ramp up your self care

Whatever you love, do more of it. And really, really try to enjoy it. And it doesn’t have to be taking a bath. Maybe it’s playing video games or binge watching your favorite show, or eating at your favorite restaurant a too few many times. Maybe you want to read more, or journal, or spend more time on your yoga mat. Do more of it, give yourself this permission and know that no one can take that permission away from you.

Say no as often as you need to

It’s ok to say no. It’s ok to not go to the party, the dinner, the gift exchange. You deserve to feel ok, and if saying no will help you with that, say no as often as you need to.

Stay close to good friends who are always there for you

The friends who just let you cry, who bring you a meal when you can’t leave the house, who go with you to the movies even if they’ll stay up too late or have to pay for a babysitter, the friend who just lets you talk and who is there to listen. Whoever this person is in your life, ask them to be your buoy during the holidays if you need it.

Have a plan for social events

You are allowed to leave whenever you need to. You are allowed to sit by whoever you need to sit with. Talk to those who you trust before hand, and create a plan so that you feel safe, taken care of, and in your power. You don’t need to stay anywhere that feels uncomfortable or triggering. And you don’t need to apologize for yourself if you leave earlier than expected.

Cultivate self awareness

This is a time to be vigilant and selfless about your well being. Take moments often to check in with your heart. Close your eyes if you can or want to and breathe as you find stillness. See how you are really doing. Be honest. And then be kind enough to adjust what you are doing, if needed, to serve how you are feeling.

I hope something I have said here can give you a little bit of light and a little bit of hope if you are downtrodden about the holidays. You will get through it, even if it’s messy, even if it’s uncomfortable, even if you dread it, you will get through it.