Grief can be the garden of compassion.
If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life's search for love and wisdom. Rumi
Grief at any time can be a burden but grief at the holidays can bring you to your knees. This year especially has been a rough one. We have each lost something this year. A loved one, opportunities, a job, a dream, and more. I think this year, more than ever before, it's going to be important to honor our grief to get through this holiday season in a lighter way and step into 2021 feeling stronger and at peace with 2020.
It's the most wonderful time of the year! Or so the song says. But what happens when you are grieving and cannot get into the holiday spirit? Trying to be happy when you are grieving is a tough task. What would happen if you gave yourself permission to feel all of your emotions, grief, sadness, moments of joy, all of it!?
Emotions are there for a reason and contrary to popular belief there is not a filing cabinet where we can file those difficult emotions until after the holidays. If you attempt this it may be detrimental to your healing and your health. The best way to get through it is to realize that this holiday season will be different and allow all of your emotions to flow, tears and all.
I have two friends who have each lost a parent this year. I've been thinking about them and have written this with them in mind in an attempt to help provide support and comfort during this difficult time where all the world expects us to be happy. No need to "bah humbug" Christmas. With a little self-care and permission to be authentic in your emotions you can get through this season and maybe even enjoy a few moments along the way.
I lost my mom on Christmas night 2000 so I understand grief and the holidays. I still celebrate the Christmas season but I do it in a much more thoughtful way. And I have incorporated a practice called the 13 Holy Nights into my routine making the season much more meaningful. This is normally a very tender time for me and I have learned over the years just how to get through the season and feel moments of joy along the way. I am also dealing with my 94 year old father with dementia, thinking that this will be his last Christmas, making things extremely difficult. I have leaned into radical self care, the art of saying no, and keeping things simple.
I want to share some of the things that help me through this difficult time. You don't have to do them all. The key is to do something, almost anything to move into another emotion, the goal is to move into a better feeling emotion. First, I think it's important to start with a few don'ts.
One very important note is that you should not use substances to drown your sorrows (drugs & alcohol). First, alcohol is a depressant and even if you feel some relief at first, eventually it will have a negative impact. Also, when you drink or drug you numb ALL emotions, the "bad" and the "good" emotions, so you cannot feel into those simple moments of joy which is what gets you through the grief. Please don't be afraid of your emotions. Allow them to flow in and out, and if you feel stuck seek the support of a trained counselor or mentor.
Eat "comfort food" at a minimum. I have found that comfort food is similar to alcohol. It may feel good at the moment but can come back to haunt you in the end. Too much sugar weakens the immune system making you more susceptible to getting sick and grief is already stressing your body. You also run the risk of getting an upset stomach creating more trouble than help. I suggest sticking with a simple diet with balanced nutrition and plenty of fresh water.
Now, on to the "do" list. Here are some things that make me feel better.
10. Listen to music
11. Dance to the music
12. Sing with the music
13. Play with dogs and kitties
14. Call your best friend
15. Meet a friend for coffee, lunch, or a walk in the park
16. Write a letter to the loved one you lost
17. Go see light displays. I enjoy the zoo and botanic gardens.
18. Take a walk outside
19. Eat simply
20. Drink plenty of water
21. Keep things at home tidy
22. Create a vision board
23. Adult coloring books
24. Read a good book or listen to a book on audio
25. Use essential oils. Lavender is great for sleeping. Young Living's Peace and Calming is very soothing. And Joy essential oil is specifically for grief.
26. Go outside at night and look up at the stars and moon
27. Sit by the fire and watch the flames dance
28. Ask for help if you need it
29. Allow all of the feelings to flow
30. Understand that grief is a process that circles round and round
31. Practice gratitude
32. Have some fun
33. Be creative
34. Go to church or an online worship service
35. Allow yourself to cry
36. Allow yourself to laugh
37. Allow yourself to stay home
38. Make lists of tasks you need to accomplish
39. Make lists of fun things you want to do
40. Move your body, exercise, take a walk, lift some weights
41. Get a massage
42. Go for acupuncture
43. Meet with a counselor, mentor, or coach
46. Breathe. Remember to breathe!
47. Be patient with yourself
48. Start a new hobby or craft
49. Celebrate and honor your loved one
50. Celebrate and honor yourself
This is my mom, in the middle with me (on the right) and my oldest sister, Gloria, many years ago. My mom loved Christmas! Decorating, making cookies, hosting the family, and sharing gifts. There isn't a day that I don't think about her. I have pictures of her all over the house. Her spirit will always be with me.
"Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings." Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Grief doesn't go away over night. Actually, grief never really goes away. It cycles and becomes a part of us. There are moments when grief seems so far away and sometimes we have moments of profound grief that completely take us by surprise. Allow those moments. Be gentle with yourself in those moments. Breathe in those moments. Rest in those moments. From each of those moments, by allowing the grief to flow, you are able to move to another level of healing. The goal is to tap into moments of joy or at least moments without grief. Let it out. Allow it to flow. Practice self care. Practice self love. If you feel stuck in your grief or have trauma associated with the person you lost, I highly encourage you to seek support from a trained counselor.
As always, if you want my support, please feel free to contact me. I can help you get to the next level of peace and step into more moments of joy. But you must allow yourself to feel the grief to get to the lasting joy. Be well. I wish you peace. I wish you love. I wish you joy.