How can grieving people still find peace and joy during the holidays?
- Something that can feel meaningful, connected and peaceful to integrate into the holidays is a sense of ritual – be it the lighting of a candle, a meditative walk, saying a prayer, going to a special place… Something that intentionally connects the bereaved individual to their person, an honoring of the grief journey and the life of the person being so deeply missed.
- For joy, giving ones’ self permission during the holidays to be in the moment can help connecting with joyous emotions. There likely will be moments of sadness, irritability or upset, but there also stands to be some moments of joy, laughter, and even happiness. It can be hard to feel those “positive” emotions when we are hurting and longing deeply for our person, like life is “moving on” without them or that we might be “forgetting” them. Your person is too important to simply forget. And having a moment of laughter can also help us to come up for air from the heaviness of our grief and pain of the suffering we feel. Getting little brain-breaks to experience joy or laughter during the holidays (or at any time) can be an important part of the grief journey.
How can individuals handle the guilt that comes along with happiness amidst grief?
- Guilt is a remarkably common experience during grief, that often people don’t talk about. But we can feel guilt for a wide variety of reasons, including when we feel happy or a sense of joy. Offering ourselves self-compassion can be a key aspect to handling guilt. It can sometimes feel like all we are allowed to do when we are grieving is to feel intensely sad, however it is important to acknowledge the many emotional experiences on the human spectrum that come up for us. Self-compassion includes kindness toward yourself, self-awareness including what self-talk/internal language we are using, and mindfulness about what you are experiencing and what your needs are and then helping to meet those needs.
- If you are feeling a sense of guilt, maybe try meeting it with curiosity. Is there something specific that triggered the feeling of guilt? Reflect on the events leading to it. Maybe talk to a safe person or use writing or artistic practices to help express what is coming up for you.
- Self-compassion, and in time self-forgiveness, can help with processing guilt during grief.
How can we still honor our passed loved ones during this time of year?
- Sharing memories with others, having pictures up, having linking objects nearby (for example wearing jewelry or clothing of theirs, special trinkets that belonged to them, putting out any special holiday memorabilia), making a special recipe or favorite treat during this time of year are all things that can help us feel a sense of connection or closeness with our person during this time of year.
How can individuals support someone they know who is grieving the loss of a loved one during the holiday season?
- Truly listen without trying to “fix” or compare. If the person you are supporting needs to tell and retell the story of their person or the end of that person’s life, please listen. If they need a distraction and to not talk about it for a while, help them to get a “brain-break” by talking about other things or simply being quiet with them or inviting them on an outing. Avoid the standard grief clichés or platitudes, while they are well-intended often they can be hurtful to the recipient because they can instead feel hurtful or dismissive. Give them a sense of safety and support instead, let them know that you are here and that you care, and then show them by listening and respecting them and their needs. Invite them to gatherings without pressure to show up. If they don’t make it to something, ask if you can bring them a plate after. Reach out to them, and even if they don’t reply keep reaching out periodically to let them know you’re thinking of them.
Anything else you want readers to know about navigating grief during the holidays?
- There is grief support available during the holiday season and it’s okay to ask for help, or reach out to a group to connect with others who “get it”. The holidays can be challenging for a wide variety of reasons, and while we want to be able to enjoy, it can also feel daunting to live up to the expectations that the holidays also come with. Please be gentle with yourself, and take it a day at a time a step at a time.
- We welcome you to contact HeartLight Center at any time, or join any group or workshop that may be helpful to you on your grief journey. We have programming online, in Denver and on the Western Slope. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or if there’s anything we can do to be of support.