A Blue Christmas: Coping with Loss During the Holidays

Christmas is this weekend and while many have the gift of holiday spirit fueling their efforts to prepare, others are left with sad reminders of family or friends who have passed. There is never a day that goes by where you do not think of them, but the holiday season makes the grief especially harder to deal with. Whether your loved one has been gone for five years or if their anniversary is coming up on one year, the holidays are just not the same.

You have already dealt with the anxious anticipation of Thanksgiving. Eating without your husband, sister, mom or cousin for the first time was the saddest you have felt in all of your life and- now? Now you have had to deal with Christmas cheer being shoved in your face for the past 21 days without the power to scream stop. The world appears to be moving at a faster pace and you are getting caught up in emotion and memory, losing your footing and grip on the present. Everything has been reminding you of them: smells in the kitchen, Christmas songs and nostalgic childhood movies. It may, at times, seem too unbearable to get through. 

You have been on the road to recovery from the very moment of your loss, and trudging through this holiday season effectively is another stepping stone in the right direction. What is important now is to grant yourself an equal amount of personal space and time with company. Between shopping for presents, planning family visits and dividing your attention between a hundred people, you owe it to yourself for some personal downtime. Stay active by shopping for yourself, try taking up a new hobby or engage in the activities that best soothes your soul, even if that is video games! This is not to take your mind off of the situation, but it will ultimately show that you are capable of enjoying  the things you have always loved to do while grieving. Keeping busy, as much as you might not want to, may turn out more therapeutic than sitting around thinking. However, crying and feeling anger and rage is normal. Nothing feels better when I am sad than to let out my tears and scream into a pillow.

If you prefer the company of others, then open yourself to someone close to you, someone you have always been able to confide in. Remember the people who were there for you when this first happened, when you were most vulnerable and needed comfort. Offer yourself to others, they are there to help you. Never underestimate the power of a good listener. 

Be sure to visit your loved ones’ grave or memorial site. This may prove the hardest, but setting aside some time to sit and have a word with him or her can be uplifting. Decorating the headstone with flowers or evergreens can help rekindle your reverence for the holiday season. It is okay to get spiritual even if you are not religious. Spirituality is a wonderful thing to have on your side, and can help you in times of grief or sorrow. You should be able to rely on something greater than the physical. Whether it is nature, the universe, a god or God, comfort can come by opening yourself up to possibilities. Play a song that the two of you bonded over, sing, close your eyes and feel it. Talk to them aloud or in your head, say a prayer, sit for an hour talking about what has been going on in your life. Start a new tradition: every holiday you will sit with them and play their favorite music album from start to end. Write them a letter and leave it at their site, share your favorite childhood memories, lay by their side and laugh. There are no rules on how to go about this.

Surround yourself with people who are positive this holiday season (and always). If you lost a family member, spending time with immediate family is ideal because you are not alone in the same grieving. Break out old photo albums and enjoy a cocktail in their name. It may hurt, but to never forget their spirit is important for your ongoing recovery.

I have never lost a sister or parent, but I have experienced loss. I am not a clinical psychologist nor therapist but I have seen heartbroken people and try to help the most I can. If you are the one helping another, understand your boundaries and do not push them to feel a certain way. Give the one you love your undivided attention. Lay with them and hold them, comfort them by non-verbally showing your love. I have seen it work.

I understand pain, but I cannot understand how hard it is to deal with not having your brother around this holiday. I wish all of you the best in getting past the holiday with some light and love. Tomorrow is a new day, live it to your best and make your loved one proud. The clock keeps on moving and in time, in your own time, you will be alright again.

I hate to see you cry, lying there in that position. There’s things you need to hear, so turn off your tears and listen. Pain throws your heart to the ground. Love turns the whole thing around. No, it won’t all go the way it should, but I know the heart of life is good. -John Mayer