Grieving through the Holidays

If you’ve lost someone you love, the holidays can be a particularly painful time. All those memories. All those traditions. All those people, still alive, who insist that you to carry on all those traditions.

How can you be expected to decorate a tree when every ornament reminds you of the person you’ve lost? And it takes so much energy to put on a brave face at family gatherings. I know more than a few people this year who were forced to retreat to the bathroom to weep.

There is a great deal of pressure at this time of the year to be joyful. That makes your utter lack of joy feel even worse. And no one wants you to figuratively (or literally) pee in their eggnog. “Can’t you see we’re trying to fa la la here? Don’t ruin it!”

And then there are the well-meaning gifts, designed to memorialize the one who is gone. They were given in a spirit of love and support, but they feel like little stabs to your already wounded heart. No one knows the right thing to say or do, because there is no right thing to say or do.

Even in a good year, the holidays can be exhausting. But they seem positively soul-sucking when you’re dragging around a tractor trailer of depression. It makes you feel detached at a time when everyone is coming together.

For me, it’s like having to take a huge breath and plunge into the ocean, in hopes of coming back to the surface again before you drown. That was Thanksgiving. That was Christmas. That was my birthday. What a relief to get through it all and come up for air!

One more to go… the dreaded New Year’s midnight, when no one will be kissing me. I’m supposed to overlook the fact that I’m completely and utterly alone. I’m supposed to feel happy for everyone who is being kissed. I’m supposed to look forward to the new year, and feel nostalgic about the past year.

That’s a heck of a lot to ask. I’ll probably try to go to bed at 11 pm and hope the neighborhood revelry doesn’t wake me up. While you sing Auld Lang Syne, I’ll be trying really hard to pretend it’s any other night.

If you know people who are grieving, ask them what they’d like to do or not do for the holidays. Ask them what they want to talk about or not talk about. Don’t apply pressure. If they are ready, offer to help them create a whole new tradition, perhaps one in which dancing and romance aren’t flaunted.

But most of all, be patient. And don’t force your fa la la on them until they can get through it without weeping in the bathroom.

alone

Even in the face of grief, there are things to be grateful for. Check out my book on that very subject. http://amzn.to/2cCHgUu

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5 thoughts on “Grieving through the Holidays

  1. Carole Lewis

    Thank You Barb, for this post and so many more that have helped me survive difficult times. The loss of my 96 year young Mother just a few months ago has been devastating. But the “Gratitude” I feel for having 74 years with this remarkable women is a great healer. Your words have helped me through so many difficult times, and helped me celebrate the good ones. This year I will try and be a better friend, sibling, and human being. I really want to let those that help me know how grateful I am, even though I might not show it at the time.

    1. One of the best things about this blog, Carole, is getting to know wonderful people like you. Your heart is in the right place, and always has been. It’s always good to strive to be better, but please know I think you’re pretty terrific just as you are. Best wishes to you at midnight…

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