I received an email recently 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.
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 who are 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 one’s former healthy self and also create tremendous guilt for the one who is ill when she/he is just not feeling the joy or is 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 in and of itself 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.
And 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.
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?