Getting Through the Holidays when you Grieve
Every grieving mother knows how old her child would be today. You know how old I would be now and how long I’ve been gone. The heart remembers everything. You are connected to me by the love that we share, a love that tugs at your heartstrings at special times. You might find yourself thinking about me continuously one day. You just can’t get me out of your mind! Maybe you even have a dream of me or receive an extraordinary sign. You look at the calendar and realize that it is the anniversary of my passing or my birthday. The heart remembers everything.
“One day without him…”
“He was still here this time last week.”
“I’ve made it through the first two weeks.”
“I can’t believe she’s been gone a month.”
“It’s been 2 months, 2 days, 7 hours, 35 minutes.”
“3 months have passed now.”
“5 months…152 days”
“I’m coming up on 6 months.”
“It’s my first holiday alone.”
“This would have been her birthday.”
We’ve been through one round of all the anniversaries of the heart. 365 days of “first times.” Oh, but it’s still complicated isn’t it? Leaving the first year behind, it’s like we lose that too. The anniversaries will keep coming. There will be days when you just aren’t feeling so strong. Maybe you go a park or a restaurant where we used to go and even though you might have a new friend with you, you are filled with tears and memories of our days together. It’s okay. Let them come. Those were the days my friend…
Creating new traditions is a very good way to move forward, to honor me and to honor the special days of the year. Sometimes you need to create new traditions for yourself when you are faced with loss---or if you are struggling with family issues and disappointments.
Anniversaries and holidays can be difficult at best when your life feels empty or incomplete. One of the things you can do for yourself during these times is to celebrate the life we shared. Do not mourn my loss. Celebrate my life. Create a lovely altar, light a candle. Say your prayers. Invite me to visit you. Talk to me. Tell me about your hopes and dreams. Reflect on the good times. Tell me you love me over and over again. Soak in the happy times of being blessed by someone in your life who loved you and who loves you still. Someone who taught you the meaning of love, not fear. Celebrate our love. Know that love never dies.
When you are visiting people over the holidays who might not understand what you are going through, take something tangible and subtle with you; something that you can wear or hold in your hand when you are you are longing to be with me instead of them. It's okay to talk about it if it feels like the right thing to do for you. It’s okay to not want to talk about too. Just tell them that. It can also be quite handy to excuse yourself so you can go to bed early. That's okay to a point too. You have a very good reason and you are learning at last to take care of yourself. Balance the holiday and try to stay balanced within yourself as you move forward to the next anniversary without me. Balance is the key to all healing. Time and support will take care of the rest.
When you are surrounded by joy and celebration it can actually make you feel worse when you feel worse. If you want to avoid parties and celebrations altogether you can volunteer at a soup kitchen or some other charity event. It often helps one to feel better when they help people less fortunate. You can also opt to stay home, but I will be hoping that you will be willing to share the holiday with someone you love and trust. Someone who lets you be you. Go easy on yourself.
The first of every month would loom ominously. She braced herself every time a new month approached. The August 1 anniversary was tough. Then a funny thing happened. December 1 arrived; sixteen months. The day came and went. On December 2 she realized she had not noticed. She felt guilty at first until she realized it was a sign of her healing. My life was the important thing and our relationship, now on new terms, was all that mattered. She forgot February 1 too! And March! She didn’t remember until after a whole week had passed! Who knew what would happen on April Fool’s Day? Well! She fooled me and remembered! This is how it will happen for you too,
in your own time and in your own way.
This post is an excerpt from our latest book, "Only Gone From Your Sight: A Personal Approach to Human Grief & Loss" Currently available on Kindle and coming soon to Amazon in Paperback!