Published on November 24, 2016

Navigating a Holiday with Grief

By Jon Yarian, Coordinator, Genesis Grief Support

When the conditions are right, love breaks through

When the conditions are right, love breaks

Grief is the way out of the pain. Rather than avoiding grief’s feelings, lean into them and attend to them. It is not the grief you want to avoid--it is the pain. Grief is more than just the difficult feelings. Just as the wind blows the boat’s sail to take it out from under the cloudy weather, so too will you get beyond the holiday. There are many ways to incorporate your loss and your loved one into a holiday.

Choosing Your Captain

For most being engaged with a holiday is a symbol of life moving on. “A holiday is time enjoyed with loved ones” is imprinted on us from infancy. Because a holiday can be for spending time with the ones you love the most, how can you be expected to navigate a holiday when a very special loved one has died? How can you celebrate togetherness when it is not there for you and your loved one?

Losing someone special may make your holiday lose its special reason for celebration. In fact, a holiday can intensify your loss. The sorrow feels greater and the loneliness feels more isolating. Some even feel that they may never enjoy a holiday again. A holiday will definitely never be the same as it was before.

This could be the most difficult part of grieving, when you miss your loved one even more than on an ordinary day. A holiday makes a mark on the journey through time of our lives. It brings purpose to a specific day; yet, you can equally bring meaning to the holiday. If it is going to change, choose to captain the boat while you navigate with grief rather than float adrift.

Charting a Course

To find the right direction, remember your heart always points true.

To find the right direction, remember your heart always points true.

Friends and relatives usually think they know what is best for you, right? Perhaps even when it is not a holiday. However, they do not how best to guide you through a holiday. You may not either, but you do get to decide what your holiday course will look like.

A holiday can be different and still be good. Only you get to decide what is good for you. You also have the right to change your mind, even over and over. Evaluate what parts of the holiday you desire and what parts you don’t. Grief gives you the opportunity to make the changes you want to a holiday.

It is your choice to be a victim of the difficult feeling or confront them with purpose and let them add meaning to your holiday. It is important that you be present with your loss in whatever way a holiday takes. A holiday is a part of your life journey to be experienced completely. Therefore, let a charted course for a holiday give you direction during this tough time.

Chart two courses—two different plans. Your first plan may be to have dinner with family or friends. If that just doesn’t seem best before or during the activity, simply move on to your second plan. That may be seeing a movie you and your loved one enjoyed, looking through pictures, or going to a place you and your loved one enjoyed. Having a plan B helps most people stick to the first plan because they know they have another option if it becomes too hard to be fully present in the experience.

If it turns out that you felt less present than you hoped to be, like you were going through the motions, don’t worry. The holiday will come around again and you can travel the other courses charted but not taken. Or try the first plan again with adjustments.

Riding the Waves of Love

A holiday has some of the strongest winds of change to navigate after your loss. There is no right or wrong way to handle a holiday with grief. The way you navigate it is as unique as you are. Remember to honor your loved one and the relationship of love you shared.

Allow time and space for your feelings by giving them a place to be expressed and shared. Let your tears sparkle as the tribute they are to the relationship of love you have for your loved one.

Consider the many ways to remember and honor your loved one’s life. Share their story and yours. The method and means of how you reflect on this special person is not as important as taking the time and effort to celebrate. After all, a holiday is a day to celebrate, so celebration of others is in order!

Allow others to help you, but protect your heart. Do only what you desire, be gentle with yourself, and don’t do things that do not feed your soul and fill your life with love.

Click here for more support. You may also contact a Genesis Grief Support staff member at 563-421-5000.

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