I knew today was my day to post something but to be honest with you I had no idea what to write about. I’m in the middle of a series focusing on health and exercise. While important, it’s not really relevant to the events of last week. It’s also the holidays but an unknown gunman did a fantastic job of sucking the joy out of the season for so many of us so writing about the cheeriness of the holidays seems irrelevant as well. As I continued to ponder what to write about my brain was multitasking and figuring out how many things I needed to check off my list before 12/25. Then a harsh reality sunk in that while I’m checking off “stocking stuffers” and “Christmas dinner”, 26 families are checking off a list to prepare for a funeral. Sad, just sad.
Although we here in Burlington were not directly affected by the events of last Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary we as Moms and Dads are weeping right along with those poor families. And although what happened is horrific I do believe it’s made even worse by the fact that we are now just 5 days away from Christmas. The holidays, for so many of us, emphasize family togetherness. They also have the power to stir in us memories of years past when we may have all been together. If you’ve lost a loved one (or even a job or made a move) the holidays can be a stark reminder that things won’t be the same. This is called grief.
From what I’ve read, and from personal experience, it’s important to understand that grief is cumulative. We don’t experience a loss, move through the “however-many” emotional stages then emerge on the other side. No, it’s not that easy. Like it or not, we are complex, emotional beings and even the strangest, silliest thing can trigger that feeling of loss all over again. For me, these last few years I’ve felt a certain amount of anxiety between Christmas and New Years through the beginning of January. It took me 2 years to trace that feeling back to its root. Three years ago this time of year was the beginning of the end of my Dad’s life. The phone calls became more frequent, the updates less reassuring, until the call came that we had to come home now. So even for me, while I love this season, there is a tinge of sadness and anxiety as I remember my Dad’s last days.
So how do we deal with this…this grief…during the holiday season? Here are some tips that may make coping with grief during the holidays a little easier.
- Set realistic expectations of yourself.
- Surround yourself with people who love and support you.
- Try to avoid “canceling” the holiday despite the temptation.
- Allow yourself to feel sadness, anger, and even joy…allow yourself to grieve.
- Draw comfort in doing for others.
- Take care of yourself.
- Create a new tradition or ritual that accommodates the current situation.
Whether you are still experiencing a lump in your throat when you think of the Sandy Hook tragedy (and rightly so) or you’ve lost someone very close to you or you’re spending your first Christmas away from your family the number one thing to remember is that there is no right or wrong way to celebrate this holiday. Have some grace with yourself and with others. Because while it may be all “Fa, la, la, la, la” for you, others may be having a “Bah Hum Bug” holiday. Even at the root of Ebenezer Scrooge’s Bah Hum Bug was loss.