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Grieving Doesn’t Stop for the Holidays

Recently, I received an email from someone who had experienced the loss of her sweet baby girl over a year ago. Obviously, the last holiday season was the first one after her loss and people were “expecting” her to be grieving then. This year she wasn’t quite so sure what people expected, and she asked me how I thought she should handle the holidays this year. Just the fact she was worried about this made me sad.

Why in the world should she have to worry about what anyone thinks? 

I am certainly no expert in grief counseling, but I told her what I always tell others who are grieving – don’t worry about what others expect. Honor your true feelings. Honor your grief by feeling it. Don’t try to cover it up, not even during the holidays.

I don’t know why it is, but so often it seems as if the holidays (as well as other celebrations/events, for that matter), are expected to be all about joy, all about celebrating, all about one type of emotion – the happy-only type.

We don’t like to “messy up” our festivities.

But grieving doesn’t stop during the holidays, nor should it.

It’s no wonder such days and/or events can sometimes be completely exhausting for those facing loss of any kind and yes, for those dealing with a serious illness as well.

A serious illness can bring on feelings of intense grief for your former healthy self and also create tremendous guilt when you are just not feeling the joy or are unable to “put on or participate in a holiday” like in years past.

Of course, the holidays are about joy, celebrating and happiness, but this doesn’t mean they cannot also include moments of sadness, grief and tears. It doesn’t have to be all one without the other. Emotions are far more complex.

There is nothing wrong with honoring your grief by feeling it. And no one should feel guilty about grieving during the holidays or during any time of the year as far as that goes.

And, of course, the reverse is true as well. If you’re grieving, don’t feel badly about feeling moments of joy either.

Grieving is hard work for so many reasons. Worrying about what’s expected or not expected is something anyone who is grieving just should not have to worry about.

So, if you have lost a dear loved one of late, or even not so of late, don’t try to block out your feelings of sadness that arise, not even during the holidays.

Instead, share a story about your loved one, light a candle in their memory or go ahead and cry when your eyes fill with those tears.

Remember your loved one. Miss them. Yes, grieve for them.

It’s okay to feel joy mixed with sorrow and likewise sorrow mixed with joy.

If you are struggling with a serious illness and grieving for things as they once were, or if you’re just not feeling the joy for whatever reason, don’t beat yourself up about it.

Honor your true feelings by allowing them to flow through you.

Doing so might actually make you feel better.

If you know someone who is struggling with grief or a serious illness, allowing her/him to honor her/his true feelings in your presence without guilt or judgment might be the greatest gift you give this holiday season.

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Have you ever felt pressured to cover up your true feelings during the holidays, or any time for that matter?

What tip do you have to help someone who is grieving this holiday season?


#Grief Doesn't Stop for the #Holidays #loss #holidayseason #Christmas

Honey Bee

Sunday 8th of December 2013

Hello Nancy,

I am a new reader to your blog and am so grateful to have found a safe, caring community that "gets it". I have recently completed chemo and radiation treatments for uterine cancer. I have yet to have the definitive CAT scan that will let me know if I am NED or not.

I lost my beloved husband (married twenty-six years) to pancreatic cancer in November 2011. So this will be the third Christmas without him. The first I spent alone. Not good. So last year I went away on a trip to Nashville. Much better.

This year I have planned another trip to a lovely New England resort in the White Mountains. It helps to be among others in a festive atmosphere.

Because of the chemo, I have unbelievable fatigue, and can do almost nothing. So I am glad when others will make the Christmas dinner, plan lovely events, and take care of all the planning. I am learning to take good care of myself by respecting and accepting my limits, and by giving myself treats and special things to look forward to.

I even celebrated the end of every chemo treatment with some special getaway. Except the last one, when I was just not up to it.

Thank you for being here, giving voice to our concerns, and for encouraging us to share our stories with you. What a wonderful community this is!

God bless you and have a wonderful Christmas.

Honey Bee


Sunday 8th of December 2013

Honey Bee, Welcome! I'm glad you're here and yes, this is an amazing community... I'm sorry about the loss of your husband and about your cancer diagnosis too. I hope your holiday has moments of peace and is full of many wonderful memories. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Weekly Round Up | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

Saturday 7th of December 2013

[…] Nancy has advice on how to deal with grief as the holiday season fast approaches. […]

Marie Ennis-O'Connor (@JBBC)

Saturday 7th of December 2013

Just being heard by you has meant a lot to me Nancy - thank you!


Sunday 8th of December 2013

Marie, You're so welcome...

Marie Ennis-O'Connor (@JBBC)

Saturday 7th of December 2013

Losing my Mom and my unborn baby just before Christmas two years ago has made me really hate the holiday season. You are so right that everyone expects you to be over it by now and not to spoil their festivities with your grief. Luckily for me this year, I get to bypass Christmas by being in a completely different country where Christmas doesn't feel like Christmas. I realize that isn't a solution for everyone for lots of reasons, but I also realize how much pressure is lifted from us when we do not have to conform to a holiday ideal.


Friday 19th of December 2014

Nancy, this is a beautiful post. And Marie, I am so sorry. I don't feel like "celebrating" this year either. But, I will do so for my kids. The day after New Year's, I seriously may drop off the planet for a month or so to regroup....

Love to both of you,

AnneMarie xoxox


Saturday 7th of December 2013

Marie, Oh my, your comment really tugs at my heart. There is a lot of pressure sometimes to conform to that holiday ideal isn't there? I'm sorry you feel it. Mostly I'm sorry for the great losses you have endured. I'll keep you in my thoughts this holiday season. Hugs to you, Marie.


Thursday 5th of December 2013

I always miss Grandma, but I agree it can be extra hard around the holidays. I especially miss her when traveling to Josh's grandparents' home because being around them makes me miss my own grandma.


Thursday 5th of December 2013

Lindsay, I hadn't thought of that - the traveling part I mean. I bet it does make you think of Grandma and make you miss her when you visit Josh's grandparents. Hopefully it stirs up some nice memories too though. We have lots of those don't we? So in that, we are fortunate. Thanks for sharing.

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