The holidays are hard in the best of times. There is stress and overspending, overextending yourself and a million things to do, there is pressure to be merry and bright while acknowledging your own privilege. This time of the year is so frantic that we often see people who are not in the best health lose their fight to hang on. People are worn down and its easier to get sick for healthy people, and if you are nearing your end of life anyway the stress can be just too much for a person's body.
If you have lost someone close to the holidays, you now have to make it through every holiday for the rest of your life with the shadow of their loss looming over the festivities. Its okay to not be interested in celebrating for a year, or twenty years. Grief has no prescribed timeline. Even if you are working through your grief and the rest of the year you are doing well, the holidays are just hard.
Trying to be merry and bright in the face of trying to forge a new normal without your loved one and dealing with their anniversary of loss is an impossible task. The anniversary of loss is always hard, no matter the time of year it comes, it is hard. The date on the calendar is a dark hole that evokes memories of our lost loved ones, the good memories and the bad, while sucking the joy and color from life. Its okay to not find the same joy in the season you had before your loss, its okay for you to not be as merry and bright.
Your world has changed and taking the space to acknowledge that its not the same in the face of the world trying to be frantically joyful can make you want to retreat into yourself. Its okay to have a drastically different celebration than the one you traditionally had, you are forging a new normal everyday and sometimes a big change is the best way. Instead of trying to do the same thing with an obvious loss try changing things around. Change can not only help you acknowledge that things are different now, the loss of your loved one has altered tradition, but also help you move forward. The changing of location, the meal shared, or the decorations can reduce the hole left in your traditions by the loss of a loved one. You are not simply going on as if they will still be there to place the star on the top of the tree, or light the menorah, and feeling the loss all over when you have to do that task, but hanging a garland instead of getting a tree or getting a new menorah or changing its location is significant enough of a change that instead of feeling a hole where that person should be, you have created a new tradition. Something so different that your not just filling the gap of where your loved one should be, but forging something new.
Maybe you don't want to change anything and you just need the space to feel the loss in your routine for a year or more. You need to acknowledge that you are still grieving and its okay to grieve for as long as you need. Its okay to do it how you need to, even if that means not doing it at all. Its okay to even create a memorial out of your tradition for as long as you need.
As always, if you are unable to manage on your own, professional counseling has no shame and can be a great help in times of stress.
How have you dealt with loss during the holidays?
My name is Abby, my life has been touched many times by loss and grief. This life has led me to helping others navigate their own grief. I have become a INELDA trained End Of Life Doula and a hospice volunteer. I am not a professional counselor or psychologist and all advice given should be treated as advice from a friend.