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Posted on 12-02-2016

Processing Grief during the Holidays

Maisha Tianuru, B.S., P.E., N.D., M.T., Msc.D., D.D.

William Hancock, B.S., N.D., M.T., Msc.D., D.D.

Experiencing grief for the physical transition and initiation into Ancestorship of a loved one is an emotionally painful and challenging condition at any time of the year, as our minds struggle to make sense out of what may seem like the destruction of our eternal compass. Meanwhile life goes on as usual for the rest of the world, including holidays - Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa and New Year’s may be difficult to endure and enjoy.

There are many ideas that aren’t helpful for grievers. Here’s six pieces of misinformation about dealing with loss:

  1. Don’t feel bad.
  2. Replace the loss.
  3. Grieve alone.
  4. Just give it time.
  5. Be strong for others.
  6. Keep busy.

None of these concepts leads us to the actions of recognizing and completing the unfinished emotions that accrue in all relationships.

HAVE A STRATEGY

Give yourselves permission to handle this time of year in a way(s) that’s most soothing.

Have a Plan A and Plan B in place. Plan A is where to go for holiday dinner with family and friends. If that feels uncomfortable, have Plan B ready: take in a movie; look through a family photo album or visit a special place of remembrance. 

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed or just going through the motions and feeling numb, consider taking a year off from celebrations. Your family and friends will understand. There’s no need to feel “guilty” about “spoiling” anyone else’s merriment. These times of crisis may often serve to emphasis the season’s true meaning.

EXTERNALIZE YOUR FEELINGS

If old traditions and rituals are too painful, consider co-creating new personal rites.

  • Dedicate a prayer or special poem in honour of your loved one the holiday dinner.
  • Light a candle.
  • Chat or co-create an online tribute to their memory.
  • Share a favorite story.
  • Ask others to relate a funny anecdote.
  • Recall them in prayer and song at your place of worship.
  • Plan a trip to another area, a visit to friends, a cruise or simply stay home and quietly mark the day reading or meditating.

If you find yourself doing something in preparations for the holidays that’s truly hurtful, just STOP DOING IT! Ask a friend or relative to assist in shopping, baking, wrapping, putting up a tree or any number of activities that evoke overwhelming feelings of sadness.

Don’t panic if your basic belief system(s) are tested during this time. For some, staying involved with the holidays is a symbol of continuing life. Let the holiday routine provide a framework for working way through these occasions. Attempt experiencing the holidays in a new way since grief has a unique way allowing us to really evaluate what parts of the season we truly enjoy and others we don’t.

There’s no right or wrong way to handle the holidays in grief. You’ll have to decide what’s RIGHT FOR YOU and JUST DO IT! You have every privilege to change your mind even more than once. Friends and family members may not have a clue how to help you through this time and neither may you.

It’s very natural to feel like you may never enjoy the holidays again. It’s true they’ll never be the same as they were, however eventually most people will be able to find meaning again in season as a new form of the holiday spirit grows inside them.

TAKING CARE OF YOURSELF 101

Take care of yourself by drinking plenty of water and eating balanced meals. If your taking allopathic medicines or herbs, make sure they’re being taking in the correct amounts and at the appropriate times. Take deep breaths several times an hour. Exercise a little bit every day. Take a “Grief Break” and allow yourself to watch a funny movie, read a interesting book, attend a good play or orchestra concert, or just visit with dear friends and family.

DO be gentle with yourself and protect yourself.

DON’T do more than you want to, or anything that doesn’t serve your soul.

DO allow for feelings to express themselves.

DON’T keep feelings bottled up by letting the tears flow.

DO allow others to HELP! We all need assistance at times in our lives, so just ASK – it’s O.K.

DON’T ask if you can HELP a friend in grief. Just HELP!

DO pay attention to the children in grief.

The holidays are clearly some of the toughest terrain we’ll navigate when our loved ones return to the spirit world. The ways we deal with them are as individual as we are. This time is a normal part of life’s journey, to be felt completely and fully. Holidays can be sad, however we may catch ourselves doing alright, and even experience laughter, so just ALLOW YOURSELF TO “BE”!

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