Blog 6

Holiday Grief Guide: Embracing Warmth Amidst Loss

The holiday season, with its festive atmosphere and family gatherings, can be particularly challenging for anyone who has experienced the loss of love. The brightness of the season often contrasts sharply with the feelings of grief and loneliness that can accompany radical change. However, it is possible to find moments of joy and peace.

To all the many brave souls who’ve faced a life-threatening illness and who’ve transitioned from this life with grace – your memories linger. You taught me and still remind me death is a sacred event.

To the courageous families and friends left behind, you are held in my heart over the holidays. I see your faces over Zoom calls and at the bedside. I remember your tears, the fears and the laughter … always in awe of your fortitude and resilience while witnessing your growth as you walked your dear one home.

The holidays can heighten the sense of loss, and it is with this in mind that I dedicate this blog to you. While I may not be a grief expert, I am fortunate to know those who are. Here’s a guide for those who are coping and ways to embrace the warmth of the season.

David Kessler’s exceptional grief series, tailored for the holiday season, offers sage advice and a safe space for grief. You can access his Holiday Grief Series here: David Kessler’s Holiday Grief Series.

A particularly touching Dying Your Way podcast episode features Michelle Neff, founder of Soaring Spirits International. She recounts the devastating, sudden loss of her husband and her meaningful work with widows and widowers—a mission that has garnered international recognition and led to her being named a CNN Hero. The episode, which even includes a light-hearted moment discussing the iconic Australian Christmas Lions Club fruitcake, is available here: Grieving Widows – Rediscovering Yourself After Grief and Trauma with Michele Neff-Hernandez.

There are others I know who are in the thick of it and in need of a breath of fresh air. You are grieving too! What to do?

Acknowledge Your Feelings

First and foremost, acknowledge your feelings. It’s normal to feel a range of emotions during the holidays, especially after a loss. You may experience sadness, anger, or even guilt. Allow yourself to feel these emotions without judgment. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to grieve.

Create a New Tradition

Holidays are often tied to traditions, and the pulling absence of a loved one can make these traditions feel hollow. Consider creating a new tradition in their honor. This could be something simple, like lighting a candle for them, or something more involved, like volunteering in their memory. New traditions can provide a sense of continuity and a way to keep their memory alive. I have a ritual of going to my father’s graveside every Christmas and Spring to freshen it up, add some new flowers and have a word with my dad. His voice is still with me in our quiet moments together.

Connect With Others

Isolation can intensify feelings of loneliness and grief. Reach out to friends, family, or community groups. Even if you don’t feel like participating in large gatherings – small get-togethers or even virtual connections can provide support and companionship. Sharing memories of your loved one with others can also be a comforting way to feel connected to them.

Take Care of Yourself

The holidays can be busy and stressful, so it’s important to take care of yourself. Ensure you get enough rest, eat healthily, and engage in activities that you enjoy and that relax you. Gentle exercise, like walking or yoga, can also be beneficial. It’s not too late to join our Healthspan Challenge. We are supporting each other to take better care of ourselves and you are welcome! Here is a link to our private Facebook page.

Have Some Holiday Me Time

While it’s important to acknowledge feelings of sadness, try to also focus on the unique aspects of the holiday season. This could include the joy of seeing Christmas through the eyes of small children, the beauty of nature this time of year, or the pleasure of watching classic holiday movies. I recently caught Judy Garland in Meet Me in St Louis! My other classic faves are Love Actually, It’s a Wonderful Life and Holiday Inn. Choosing small, positive moments for yourself are not indulgent … they are necessary.

Give Yourself Permission to Change Your Plans

As nurturers, even the act of giving can become strenuous. That is understandable. It’s acceptable to adjust holiday activities to suit your emotional capacity. Giving and receiving can help shift sadness and lift a spirit, especially when we are blue. Do a small, conscious act of kindness for another. Allow others to do acts of kindness for you.

The holidays can be bittersweet, yet with thoughtful approaches, it’s possible to unearth pockets of happiness amidst the grief. By honoring your emotions, fostering connections, and initiating new traditions, you can steer through the holiday season in a way that is both respectful to your loss and open to the warmth and joy that the season can offer.

As Judy Garland would say, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas.”