Grief and the Holidays
By: Julie Galiñanes, MSW, LCSW
When you lose someone you love, it can be tremendously devastating. Your whole world is turned upside down. The pain is immense and intense. It may seem like it will never pass. What used to be a commonplace routine becomes a chore. Taking your dog for a walk, preparing a meal, and making a phone call, amongst many other tasks, can all seem excruciatingly difficult to perform. In other words, grief hurts. It literally shakes your world and you want the shaking to stop. Now. But it doesn’t.
Grief especially hurts during the holidays. Whether it be Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Hanukkah, it is a time when families come together to celebrate. But the absence of a family member during any of these holidays is simply a painful reminder that they are no longer with us.
The loss of a loved one is more profoundly felt during this time. Holiday music, decorations, and parties can all be reminders that our loved one is no longer with us and can bring about an even deeper sadness. For this reason, it is important to remind yourself that you do not have to partake in all holiday events. In fact, you don’t have to partake in any of the events, period. The choice is absolutely yours.
You may decide altogether that you don’t want to celebrate the holidays, and that’s perfectly okay. You may decide to skip the holidays altogether, and that is okay too. Or perhaps modifying the holidays would be more within your comfort zone. As an example, avoid malls by shopping online. Attending some parties and having an escape plan may be helpful as well. Just keep in mind that there is no right or wrong.
Remind yourself that it won’t always be this way. The more recent the loss is, the harder the holidays will hit you. But, as difficult as the grieving process is, it is necessary to experience the pain in order to begin to heal. So be mindful that, while this holiday season is awful, it doesn’t necessarily mean future holiday seasons will be. Although it is very likely that past holiday rituals may not remain, you will likely create new ones while still being able to honor the memory of your loved one.