Loss During The Holidays

The temperatures are starting to cool, the leaves are changing colors, and everything seems to be pumpkin spice and apple. Fall is finally here! If you are like me, then many of you are loving this and have been waiting for this time of the year.   The stores have displays of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas items and decoration.   Many find this very exciting…. it means major holidays are rapidly approaching bringing great traditions and festivities.  However, many of us feel increased anxiety and sadness as the holidays approach. We are bombarded by feeling stress and pressure to put on a happy face to express excitement and joyfulness about the rapidly approaching holidays.  Many of us likely looked forward to and enjoyed the holidays in the past. Yet, if you have lost a loved one, you may be struggling to look forward to the holidays as you once did.  Whether due to estranged relationships, our loved ones serving in the military away from home, incarceration, or death, the loss is felt. 

 It is hard to be cheery when such sadness and stress is affecting us so deeply.  Often people will say “this is a wonderful time of the year; you should be happy”.  True, it is a wonderful time of the year, but it also brings out much sadness and anxiety.  For those of us who are facing our first or umpteenth holiday without our loved ones for whatever reason, we are faced with “how do I get through the holidays” question.  Sadly, there is not a simple or answer to that question or one that will work for everyone.  Many people offer platitudes such as “your loved one would want you happy” or “they are in a better place”.  Be that as it may, it doesn’t change the fact of the sadness and loss facing us.  I have learned through the years that we honor them by continuing some traditions and creating new ones.  We still grieve and miss our loved ones, but we can also again enjoy the holidays.  The holidays will never be the same, but we will learn to “survive” the holidays and perhaps even enjoy them again too, which is quite ok.

Loss is not something that many of us are comfortable talking about.  People often people do not know what to say to those who have lost a loved one.  Yet, grieving is something that each of will experience throughout our lives.  Grieving is very individualized and needs to be treated and respected as such.  Also, many people who have lost a loved one just want you to talk about their loved one and to simply be there for them.  Often, just sitting somewhere quietly with us rather than offering us words of comfort is what we need from others as we are feeling the loss. However, if you feel that you need to offer some words, a simple yet heartfelt “I’m sorry” is very much appreciated.  Earlier this year, I wrote this blog on grieving, so check that out if you missed it. 

This year I am facing the 11th holiday season without my mother.  My first year of holidays without my mom being alive feels like forever ago, yet also just like last week.  The first year of holidays without my mom I tried tirelessly to do the holidays just as mom had including her recipes (despite her recipes never being written down or shared!)  I learned as the years went by that even if I replicated the recipes exactly and maintained the same traditions, that it would never be the same.  That was and is hard to accept.  However, gradually, I am learning to accept that I can create new recipes and traditions, and that is ok.  For example, we no longer cut our Christmas tree down on the first Saturday in December, but often do it the Sunday after Thanksgiving.  We still have pizza the night we decorate the tree though, so this is one of the many ways that we maintain a tradition, as simple as it may seem.  I have also “tweaked” some of her recipes and honestly, my version is often better! And, trust me, that saying and accepting that too was challenging!

 I felt as if I did not have someone to share my thoughts and feeling with, or give me guidance and support especially during the holiday season when I was grieving.  Of course, the surviving members of my family were available, but I needed outside support and understanding.  Thus, this is one of the many reasons that I have created and will facilitate the Grieving Through the Holidays When Others are Celebrating Workshop in November.  I hope you will join myself and others for this so that you will have support and can share and relate to others who are not necessarily in your family or experiencing the same loss.   Information on grieving, how to manage sadness during the holidays, and activities to help with grieving will be provided. 

For more information and to sign up; please email me at rebecca@discovercounselingcollective.com or call me at 717-723-8040, extension 400.  I look forward to being able to work with you!