holiday grief

Remembering and mourning at Christmas

Are you facing your first holiday season in a place of despair? Did someone close to you die this past year, making you you feel crushing sadness? Faking a smile as others spread Yuletide cheer?

If you can relate, it’s important to recognize you are not alone. The truth is that for many people, “Christmas” can be a brutally painful time of year – especially if you are coping with the loss of loved one; like a parent, child, sibling or close friend.

The intensity of what you are feeling right now speaks directly to the enormity of of the moment. You are in a fragile place to be sure.

Now, as in this very second in time, I want you to take a deep breath. Clear your mind of everything that has happened on this day and purge yourself of all thoughts. Take another breath and use the power of mindfulness to bring focus to your immediate surroundings.

In doing this, my hope is to momentarily suspend your heart’s heavy burden so that you can more fully absorb what follows. When you are emotionally able, feel free to proceed.

5 Tips for Remembering a  Loved One Who Passed

1. Use their name

Many who have lost someone close are reluctant to speak their name during the holidays in fear of causing others discomfort. If you are one of these people, you do yourself and the person you loved a dishonor by not remembering them verbally. Healing cannot take place if we deny a person’s existence. Invoke the name of your loved and speak from the place they now live – in your heart.

2. Allow others to comfort you

Grieving is a uniquely intimate experience. It is also a necessary part of healing. If you bottle up all that you are feeling and push away those who care for you, you deny yourself and others powerful moments of healing. It’s OK to not want to talk but let others be with you at this time. There can be restoration in the silence.

3. Laugh and Cry

You may feel that it is disrespectful to laugh right now, particularly if a memory pops up about the person you have lost that makes you smile. Please clear your mind of this belief. A basic universal truth about grief is simply this – without laughter, we would have only tears.

Crying by the way is OK too right now. Tears are a natural byproduct of your sadness. Let them fall from your eyes cathartically. Allow others to lovingly wipe them from your face.

4. Create a memory chain

If you celebrate Christmas and want to remember someone who has passed, a very meaningful and loving thing to do is to create a memory chain. All you have to do is take some construction paper and cut out little bands about 12-inches long.

After you cut them up, lay the strips on the floor. Then you, your children, friends and extended family members can write down cherished memories about the person who has died. Tape or staple the bands together and wrap the chain around the Christmas tree.

You can also make a wreath for a doorway or simply hang it up on a wall. From time to time, when it feels right, read the messages and feel whatever comes up.

5. Decline what feels right but don’t isolate

You have every right to decline invitations to various holiday events at this time. It’s not easy being around others who are in a happy place while you are feeling such immense loss. You are not obliged to do anything. This includes going to parties or shopping for holiday stocking stuffers.

With that shared, don’t fall into the trap of emotionally locking yourself up and isolating. Doing so may only make you feel worse. Instead, surround yourself with people who genuinely care for you. If others are grieving over the same loss, be with them.

Final Thoughts: Christmas and Loss

Facing your first Christmas and by extension, New Year, in the absence of someone you dearly loved is one of the most difficult things you will ever endure. There is no way I or anyone else can use a bunch of flowery language to magically take away your pain. More than anything right now, compassion for yourself is the order of the day.

They say that when we love deeply – we hurt deeply. It is in the hurting that we find the healing.

I hope the gift of healing visits your heart this holiday season.

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