Grief Doesn’t Take a Holiday
It’s that time of year where everyone’s anticipating holiday cheer and festivities and if you’ve recently had someone close to you die or maybe it’s been years since they’ve been gone, it can still sometimes be hard to even imagine feeling joyful. With Facebook perfection and everyone looking at you like you might just crack right down the middle, there’s just nowhere to hide. People ask, “How are you?” and you’d love to be able to just say, “How do you think I am?” But you politely say, “I’m fine”. Which is an acronym for frustrated, insecure, neurotic, and emotionally unstable. So, what do you do? If you have kids, hiding under the covers until Valentine’s Day is not really an option.
As I write this I’m watching Grey’s Anatomy and George who is been dead for years is visiting with the now Meredith who is waffling between life and death as she suffers from COVID and they walk casually along the beach, where apparently the sand isn’t real, or the water or even your body George states nonchalantly. He then drops the bomb….
“Some grief is heavier than other grief, sometimes it moves through you, sometimes it just gets stuck.”
I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t have said it better. The simple truth in that statement is profound. Each person not only deals with and works through grief in their own way, their own timeline, their own understanding, and now you’re dealing with different kinds of grief and that you really don’t know if it’s going to be heavier, if it’s going to get stuck, or if you’re going to breeze right through it. Which I don’t think is humanly possible, but maybe. So, my typical go-to besides calling my brother, my BFF, or talking to my husband would be to check in with my two East Coast bestie grief chicks, Eleanor and Litsa at Whatsyourgrief.com. They have 64 Tips for Coping with the Holidays and a plethora of other great ideas for the bereaved. They pretty much cover everything and if they didn’t, you’ll think of something after being inspired by the list.
Coping with Grief at the Holiday
Ultimately it comes down to a couple of things. You just never know how you’re going to feel or deal with your grief. Most likely sad, but there are so many faces to sad. There’s the sorting of the feelings, the analyzing all the ways you think you could have made a difference, and then just getting through one minute at a time. Check out the list when you have a chance. Talk to a friend. Find a support group where people nod when you speak. Find some simple creative activities to do with your kids that encourage telling their story. Share your story. They’ll be different and let them be different. Don’t try to fix, or change. There’s nothing you can say to a child to make the sad go away, it has to go away in its own time and in their own time. You can’t force a rosebud to open, don’t try to force them, or yourself. Give them markers and paper and they’ll spill their story on the blank page. It’s kind of like a paint pour, all the feelings layered into one container and then you dump them out on the canvas, any way you want, fast, slow, and the colors swirl around together. They seem so confusing and make no sense at all and then they morph into their own place on the canvas and create this swirling piece of artistic beauty.
It’s an amazing process. Find a big empty journal for yourself to spill your sad onto. It’ll be safe there, and sometimes a little bit will actually be left behind, and that heavy grief George talked about won’t be quite so heavy. Check out the list. Add to it, change it, delete what doesn’t work. You’re going to be okay. All the holidays will come and go, and it might be just one big blur. That’s okay too. Hug each other, take your time doing everything, take a deep breath, several, and just try to look at things upside down and maybe it’ll feel right side up.
I’ll say it again. You will be okay. And it’s Okay That You’re Not Okay. That’s a great book by Megan Levine by the way. I know it’s like someone moved all the furniture in your house in the middle of the night and when you got up to go to the bathroom you discovered the hard way that things weren’t quite the same anymore. But over time you can move things back the way they were, but most likely you’ll leave some things where they are. It’ different. It’s all different, but we humans are resilient, and we have the natural ability within ourselves to heal. Trust the process. Be patient. Keep walking.
Holiday Gift Giving Guide for Grievers
Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region
Feeling bulb activity and Memory Box
Written by Camille Gerace Nitschky, the Executive Director at the Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region.
You can follow the Children’s Grief Center of the Great Lakes Bay Region on Facebook and Instagram.