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Grief Relief: Tis the season to remember the grieving

One thing that I know for sure as a grief counselor is that this is the time of year when people tend to suffer the most in their grieving.  Yes, there is not a “good time” to experience loss and the death of a loved one, and yet when it happens so close to the holidays, it can impact the way we choose to celebrate or not celebrate.  Many have already informed me that they are overwhelmed, distraught, lost and filled with a longing for the first of the year to “hurry up” and arrive.  They have their fingers pressed on imaginary fast forward buttons and yet they find themselves stuck on pause, the nightmare of constantly having to endure the sights and sounds of the holiday season always present.

Some speak of anger and frustration, that family members and friends insist on their presence, and that they feel forced to be somewhere that they know will only intensify their hurt and heartbreak.  And yet, they feel guilty because they do not wish to let anyone down or hurt anyone’s feelings.  They feel stuck between a rock and a hard place because they wish to be present, and yet they don’t, dancing constantly around those that love them, wishing to make everyone happy even when they are suffering and having difficulty mustering up the smile that everyone is looking to see in place.

Truth is that those who are grieving sometimes do not even know how they can entertain the holiday season or how it will truly impact them.  They are filled with anxiety and loss, unsure of being around others that are filled with joy, not wishing to “bring anyone down” with their sadness.  And, even when gently encouraged by those that love them, there is still a need to be alone for some- to be away from all of the happiness and excitement because it is simply too hard to bear.  But for others, it is the exact opposite because they look forward to being surrounded by those that love them, their presence dimming the melancholy even if only temporarily.

Maybe we can be more cognizant of how others are feeling this holiday season.  It is easy to become caught up in all the hustle and bustle of jingle bells and gift giving and overlook the fact that some people struggle mightily at this time of year.  Consider reaching out to the lonely, the ones you know that have limited support or who might just need an extra dose of love and human kindness.  Be gracious in your invitations as well as in accepting if they are declined, understanding that not everyone is ready or able to celebrate this year or maybe write a note of encouragement, acknowledging their loss and the difficulty they might be having at this time. 

Many tell me that something as simple as a phone call or a sweet card letting them know that they are being thought of during the holiday season goes a long way in their healing.  They don’t wish to be a damper on anyone’s spirit and will often shy away from parties or gatherings, unable to join along in the joy.  Please keep them and yourselves (if you are the one grieving) in mind when approaching these next few weeks.  Give yourself permission to celebrate or not celebrate the way that is most comforting to you and know that even if time appears to be slower than normal, the days will continue to tick away and the calendar will soon flip into the New Year.  Be kind to yourself and others and consider giving the gift of grief support.  Your presence may be the blessing that helps them through that lonely, silent night.