Holiday Survival After the Loss of a Loved One. What Friends Need to Know.
YEA! It’s the holidays! Not.
Many of us look forward to the holidays, following traditions, and creating new memories. However, people who have experienced the loss of a loved one may not be so quick to jump into the local “Jingle Bell Trot” or indulge in the gluttony of feasts. Holidays and Anniversaries are notorious for pulling the rug out from under our feet and re-activating the grief. Holidays may be that soul-wrenching reminder that someone we loved, is not here. We may find ourselves leaning more towards "Bah Hambug" than "Merry Christmas."
grief |grēf| noun. A continuous process of mourning through which one learns to live with the loss.
As someone who lost her only brother, I get it.
Typically, I love the holidays, but this year I think I would welcome a pass. To Timbuktu. To anywhere. Alone. With no ham, cranberries, mashed potatoes, or pecan pie. This year I would love to hole up and just not deal. But I won’t.
I know grief is a journey that has to happen. I can’t avoid and ignore holidays and anniversaries even though I may want to. I have already pushed through the one-month anniversary, the two-month anniversary, three, four, and five. In fact, we are slowly heading upon two years without my brother. It seems like yesterday that we were chatting. But it isn't. I am learning to live without the daily texts or hearing his voice on the phone, even though I sometimes expect them to happen.
Pain is proportional to the amount we love.
-Dr. Jude Black
I remind myself that it hurts so much because I cared. To me, not hurting would mean the loss didn’t matter. My loss mattered. I am also trying to embrace the pain and experience the sorrow. That is the only way for healing to begin. I will heal, one day. For now, I am just trying to survive "Tis the Season."
As the holidays creep up, I encourage you to lean in, pivot, and meet them head-on. Here are a few tips for helping loved ones "deal" through the holidays.
Five things you can do to help a loved one of friend survive the holidays:
PLEASE talk about my loved one. Many times people will avoid the topic for fear they will hurt the person grieving. Stop it. Even though it may seem awkward, pretending they didn’t exist is so much more painful. There is healing in telling my story, it helps me to be stronger and accept that my loved one is really gone. The holidays are filled with memories and this is an amazing opportunity for me to share precious moments with you.
Everyone deals with death differently, be kind. I may not want to be “strong”. I may want to cry. Please support me in spite of my chaos today. Silence may be the best medicine when you aren’t sure what to say. Understand that this journey is a cycle that ebbs and flows with emotions.
Let me breathe. I may not want to go out, please know that it has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with me and where I am in this journey. Let me know that you are here for me when I am ready.
Be a little more patient. Even though I try to “show up”, I don’t always get it right. Ask me to clarify if you are confused, don’t judge me or make assumptions. I may react instead of respond, please be patient. Let me get centered and know that I’m really trying.
Help me remember. I need to remember the past- it matters. But I am also trying to recreate a new norm. Offer to help me find my own way to honor my loved one and let me know if you have done something to remember my loss. Please tell me if you said a prayer for me, lit a candle, remembered a funny story, or even donate your time in their honor.
About the Author: Dr. Jude Black is the CEO & Founder of E-Therapy Cafe. She is our Story Lover, Emotional Healer, Chaos Calmer, Change Catalyst, Resiliency Ninja, & Life Expert. Dr. Black has a demonstrated track record of success both domestic and internationally as a clinician, businesswoman, and public speaker. Dr. Black has been featured in Elle Magazine, Nextgen Milspouse, MTVNews, Modern Loss, Refinery 29, and Military Times and more. In her free time she is hanging out with her family, speaking out against toxic leadership at the Pentagon, and enjoying a strong cup of coffee! To schedule a session with Dr. Black, click here.
E-Therapy Café™ is a people-focused, innovative online counseling and coaching platform for individuals, couples, families and corporations. The mission is to provide professional, convenient, and affordable, modern online therapy – anytime, anywhere for everyone. The Boutique Team of Licensed Therapists and Certified Life Coaches are passionate change catalyst, focused on realistic goals in today’s fast-paced world. The headquarters is in Northern VA with a nationwide and global reach.