Coping With Grief During The Holidays
For millions of people living with grief, the holidays are the hardest times of the year for us. From the decorations and the music to the traditions, the most wonderful time of the year is a constant reminder that our families will never be whole again.
In 2009, my younger brother Scott passed away at sixteen years old. This Christmas is going to be our ninth holiday season without him, and as much as I wish I could say that it's gotten easier, it feels just as painful and sad as it did back in 2009.
That's why I wanted to find a way to talk about what the holidays are like for those of us living with grief. Because despite the fact that the holidays are the most painful time of year for us, we don't get to hibernate. We have to endure.
Meet Jaime King, Michelle Pitman, Kelly Benini, Aili Davenport, Kirsten Rowland, and Chelsea London Lloyd. Six incredible women who selflessly agreed to talk about what they wish the world understood about what grief is like during the holidays
Everything reminds us of our loved ones.
Even though we find ways to enjoy what we have and find joy wherever possible, we still wish we could skip the holiday season.
Our grief is magnified during the holidays.
The guilt is paralyzing.
It's hard to feel angry or sad because we don't want to burden those who are happy with our grief.
It's hard not to want to just pretend everything is fine.
Our grief doesn't go away.
It doesn't matter how much time has passed. Sometimes the most helpful thing is for someone else to acknowledge our pain and be with us.
We're overwhelmed and trying our hardest not to fall apart in grocery stores, department stores, at work, in the car, at dinner, and everywhere we're reminded of our losses.
There's no such thing as a right or wrong way to get through the holidays. Before my brother passed, every second was planned and fraught with family, joy, and tradition. Now, we still change it up every year and try to figure out how to survive. Taking down the Christmas decorations became an impossible feat. It took years before we even tried. Now, we take them down, they sit in the living room for a week, and then we put them away.
But we do what we can. We started buying our Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, as the owners of the tree lot were tossing the leftover trees into a dumpster. Then, we'd take it home and make our own ornaments out of paper, glue them to the tree, and on December 26th, we'd drag the whole thing to the curb and be done with it.
Now, my Mom makes our tree an art project. What used to fill her with dread and pain became something she looks forward to.
It's important to remember that it's OK to feel sad, angry, or even happy during the holidays. You have to give yourself permission to feel what you're feeling. But try to find ways to talk about your loved ones. I know it hurts like hell and sometimes you just want to get through without having to fall apart, but you have to remember them.
If that means writing to them, do that.
If that means watching home movies with your family or by yourself, do that.
If that means coloring or looking at old pictures, do that.
If that means just quickly saying that you really miss them, do that.
Nothing you do will fill that hole. But this pain we feel is our new normal. Keeping their memories alive can help. Reach out to people you love and trust when you're hurting. You're not burdening anyone with your pain, anger, sadness, and grief.
If you or someone you know is living with grief during the holidays, I hope you share this video with them. Sometimes we just want people to know what we're living with.
Coping with grief this holiday season? How does your family survive the holidays? Let us know in the comments below.
From all of us at She Can & She Did and VKTRY Creative, we hope that you have a very happy holiday season.
A special thank you to Jaime King, Michelle Pitman, Kelly Benini, Aili Davenport, Kirsten Rowland, and Chelsea London Lloyd for bravely and vulnerably sharing their voices and grief.