Dealing With Grief During The Holidays

So, in case you didn't realize this already, Thanksgiving is one week away. For the majority of people the holidays are simply a happy time when your family can all come together to fellowship, eat lots of yummy food, and appreciate the blessings and memories the past year has brought. For others, however, the holidays place a giant magnifying glass on the pain and loss you deal with every single day of the year. Sadly, my family has fallen in the latter category for the past three holiday seasons- ever since the unexpected loss of my younger brother.

I know that my family isn't the only one who has to deal with the looming grey cloud of grief during a time thats supposed to be overly joyous and happy, so I thought I'd share a few ways that I personally have dealt with the super conflicting, confusing metal battle of simultaneously wanting to bask in the holiday glow while mourning the loss of a family member and everything that made the holidays special for the majority of your life.

1 // Be the sunshine

Personally, I've taken on the role of an uplifter, a fixer, and someone who constantly tries to make everything better. When things are heading down a sad path, I change the subject to something lighter. When people are falling into a "glass half empty" mentality I make emphasize the positives and try to turn things around. Obviously not everyone can be this person, but I've found that it really helps to inject positive energy into an otherwise dim situation. Making the extra effort can truly be the difference in changing people's attitudes and bringing smiles to a room full of frowns.

2 // Let go of old traditions - and be okay with it

I'm someone who has always loved the holidays- the traditions, the planning, the anticipation, the decorations, the fellowship, the parties- everything. I was always the one organizing, keeping traditions going, and making sure everything went off without a hitch. When I realized that the holidays were never going to be the same it was a huge mental hurdle to make and I had to grieve all over again. Losing my favorite traditions like picking out the perfect Christmas Tree with my Dad, decorating the house with my Mom, and playing pictionary as a family on Christmas Eve, made me completely distraught. It took lots of time and constant pep-talking myself to let these things go.

3 // Make new traditions

When I lost our old traditions I had to accept that we could have new traditions to take their place - and that that was okay. Switching things up was necessary to keep our family moving forward, and we had to create new ways to do things to try and make our loss less painful. Instead of Christmas at home we went to a cabin in the mountains. Instead of spending Christmas day sitting around and lounging we found an activity (hiking) to keep us busy. The holidays will never be as innocent and simply happy as they were before, but creating new traditions was a really helpful way to cope.

4 // Focus on the things you can control

You can't make everyone else feel better. You can't force people to forget how much has changed and focus on everything we're missing. However, you can make sure that you are doing everything in your power to make things as good as possible. Simply reminding yourself to focus on the positives rather than falling into a hole of sadness can and will rub off on others. Remind yourself that a negative mind will only bring a negative vibe to everything you do. If you consciously refuse to let yourself be a grinch you'll see that you have the ability to make things as good as you can. 

5 // Remind yourself that no matter what, things could be worse - you are blessed

Yes it's incredibly hard and yes it really, really, really sucks that you lost a loved one, but somewhere out there lives a person with a worse situation. Someone without clean water, without food, without any friends/family, without warm clothes, without a safe place to stay. Whenever you're slipping into that "poor me" mindset snap yourself out of it and remember that despite everything, you're still blessed. Like Winne the Pooh said, "How lucky am I to have someone that makes saying goodbye so hard"- be thankful that you had the opportunity to have the time you had with that person rather than sad/angry that they're gone. I promise that realizing this will make your mountain seem like a molehill and put a little peace in the midst of your pain.

-Lanie W.

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