Holidays and Grief - Let's Talk About It
The holidays are here and they come with some complex emotions for many of us. Grief is one of them. I’m going to get vulnerable with you here and share my holiday grief story and process.
Four years ago my father was facing the rest of his life in prison for a crime that I caught him committing. My father and I had been very close. Me catching him doing something very bad and reporting him, resulted in him facing multiple felonies and fifteen years behind bars. The whole experience was heartbreaking, devastating, and traumatic. The day before his prison sentencing, he chose to end his life.
The holidays are full of grief reminders for me and this tragic story. The day that my life imploded and I discovered his crimes happened the day after Thanksgiving. He ended his life on November 20th. His birthday is December 2nd, and Christmas was his favorite holiday.
I know complicated grief very well, and it has taught me a lot about myself, what it means to love, and what it means to lose. Every year at this time, I prepare myself to ride the grief wave and revisit wounds that are still healing, happy and painful memories, and the most tragic storyline of my life. I’ve learned a thing or two about getting through this time of year, and I’d like so share some of my tips with you in hopes they may be helpful to someone who also finds this time of year tender and complicated.
- Do not hide from your grief. Befriend it. I have learned to see my grief as a dark messenger from beyond. While I don’t consider grief to be my BFF, I do invite it in, welcome it, have a cup of tea with it, and listen to it. Avoiding, denying, or locking it out only creates more hurt for you and others. Let it in.
- Ride the wave. Grief comes in waves. Sometimes it’s a tsunami and sometimes it’s a gentle rock. There is a beginning, middle, and end to that wave. Wherever you are on the wave, remember that it will pass. Things will calm. You will feel happy again. This is just a moment in time.
- Grief is the result of loving. There are two sides to everything, and to open yourself up to love means you open yourself up to grief and loss. When it hurts, remember that it hurts so much because you loved so much. In those moments, try to dually feel the hurt and loss, alongside the love and tenderness. Do not let grief harden you. Let it be a path to the love you felt and still feel.
If you’re feeling the pangs of grief this season, know you are not alone. The older we get the more complex the holidays become. There are layers to our existence and new storylines get added to this time of year. You cannot live a long, happy life without grief. It is guaranteed. But if we change how we relate to grief, relate to those we’ve lost, and how we feel our pain, we can change how grief affects us and others.
Wishing you all of the feels this holiday season.