Everyone around you is anticipating the holidays. Their world is full of excitement, love, joy. They’re planning parties, baking cookies, singing carols, lighting candles, shopping for just the right presents to put a smile on loved ones’ faces. They may complain about being busy or rushed, but they are fully immersed in enjoying the “most wonderful time of the year.”
But you’re grieving. Maybe you’re doing your best to act as if you’re just fine, and you’re going through the motions of participating in the season while privately gritting your teeth, or screaming in your head, or spending every moment holding back the tears. Maybe you’re retreating, staying at home and sleeping as much as possible, with the covers pulled up over your head. And maybe you’re just trying to figure out how to navigate this next month without going insane.
How can you get through the holiday season when you’re devastated by loss?
The following is something I posted on my personal Facebook timeline one year ago today:
These are the lessons I have learned about grief since I came home almost six years ago, on the Friday before Thanksgiving, to find my husband's body on the kitchen floor and my world shattered:
You don't "get over" the grief, you learn to live with it and find joy again in spite of the sadness. You are not failing if you're not "over it." You never get over it. In the beginning it starts out feeling like your grief is all there is to you, and there's no room for anything else. Then you move to a place where it's not gone but is just one part of makes you, you. There is no time table for this, and it’s not a steady progression.
It's healthy to let yourself feel the "negative" emotions deeply -- trying to avoid them doesn't make them go away. You can allow yourself to cry. In spite of what you may believe, if you start crying you will, in fact, eventually stop.
As I write this, it is a beautiful spring day. All of the pinks and yellows are blooming, and the trees are beginning to come into leaf.
This is the kind of day that has always invigorated me. After a long winter of dark, cold days that sap my energy and make me huddle in, the spring awakens me, literally. I get out of bed earlier. My mind begins to clear. I make plans.
Spring had always been a boost for my spirit. Grief took that away from me. Two and a half years after my husband died, I wrote this in my journal:
Beautiful day out. 60 degrees, sunny. Took a walk around the block, then sat in the bamboo garden for about 20 minutes. And got overwhelmed by sadness and indignation. It’s so beautiful out there, peaceful, tranquil. The bamboo is growing, the fronds are waving in the breeze, when I sit at the table all I see is the bamboo, the brick of the patio, the bamboo wall. And John’s not here to enjoy his handiwork. He created this lovely spot – his vision, his effort, his...