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Surviving Grief During the Holidays!

by Dana Russo, guest blogger,

Ahh, the Holidays.

Like it or not, they evoke a response.

Holidays are a time to enjoy family gatherings, memory making, laughter, wonder, and gratitude. Admittedly, the holidays are also laced with additional hustle and bustle of gift buying, special parties, and more events to attend than usual. Despite it all, we concur “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

At least we long for it to be true.

However, the holidays can be especially difficult for us who are grieving the loss of a loved one. Feelings of extreme loneliness, sorrow, sadness or even anger may cause you to want to withdraw or to skip this season altogether. Perhaps you have wished for a remote control to hit the fast-forward button and just get past it all, especially the pain.

Since we cannot ignore or fast-forward, how DO we survive the holidays? Could there still be some magic for us this season? Is it possible there might be hidden treasures for us amid such deep pain?

It is difficult when meaningful relationships are in the spotlight right now. The perfect annual family photo, songs of love in the air, the laughter of children all accentuate and highlight what we have lost.

Note - the arrow of grief always points to what is important to us.

Much of the pain of grief is bound in the physical absence of our loved one. The empty chair, the empty side of the bed, or empty bedroom . . . it all screams “they are gone.” There was the initial loss when they died, but as Francis Weller offers it is an ongoing loss, a sense of losing over and over at each meal or routine activity.

While images and activities of the season surface unforgettable memories, what might it look like to lean into those memories, to move through the deep ache to find what is there for you?

Reality - your loved one was so much more than a physical body!

Though their body is gone, the vibrancy and essence of their life lives on and can still accompany and comfort you.

Instead of pushing grief away, shushing it, or stuffing it down, what if you allowed the pain points of your grief to guide you through this season? What if you allowed your grief to not just point out your pain but also escort you past just the deep ache and ask:

· What still remains?

· What about your loved one lives on beyond their death?

· What deposits did he or she make in your life that are forever a part of you?

· What about him or her would you like to take forward with you as you adjust to a new way of being this next year?

YOU get to choose how you want to remember your loved one. YOU get to choose how to keep their memory alive for yourself and your family.

Truth - you do not have to leave your loved one behind this Christmas.

Perhaps you could have each family member list out some character qualities or words that describe your loved one and then share them during your family gathering. Or share a favorite memory of him or her from a past Christmas, prepare one of their favorite foods, or donate to their favorite charity. There are many ways to honor your loved one.

The Holidays.

A time to remember.

A time to ponder mysteries.

A time to hold close and embrace meaningful relationships that continue to offer joy and life.

Let’s accept the invitation of grief - to include, to remember, to cherish and treasure the indelible print our loved ones made on our lives and upon this earth.

This invitation too precious to pass up this season!

Dana Russo is the founder of HOPE RISES, a practice offering grief care and mental health counseling. She holds two certifications in death and grief studies and is a trained Spiritual Director. Her most profound teachers remain the bereaved and those they love.


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