Grieving During the Holidays

2 min read

Holidays are often a time of great celebration

Celebrating family, friends, community, religious zeal, and most of all, the feeling of joy. That’s why we typically gather together as a group, so our joy can be shared. However, holidays are not always the euphoric time of the year we anticipate in our minds. Grief can sneak into our celebration, and even threaten to swallow it whole.

You likely clicked on this post because something has meaningfully changed in your life, changing how you view the holidays this year. Perhaps a loved one has passed away, or you’ve recently come out of a relationship. Maybe your actual plans have had to change because of COVID precautions or something about your own identity has changed. Regardless of what has happened, grieving a loss around the holidays can feel like an invasion of what is supposed to be a joyful time of the year.

How then, do we approach grief over the holidays?

Do you give up and cancel them? Do we, “put on a brave face,” and white knuckle our way through? Neither extreme is a good option for a simple reason: both require us to abandon a part of ourselves for the sake of another. If we decide a holiday is ruined because it won’t be the same as years past, we reject the idea of happiness reentering our lives. Yet, if we try to blanket our grief with a false happiness, we don’t address our pain, causing us to emotionally bleed-out and suffer.

This leaves all of us still asking the question, “What should I do?” At the heart of all holidays is celebration and remembrance. We remember why we gather together, who we gather with, and the reason for it. Holidays may happen every year, but the reason we celebrate them often can change. We may not have the picture of what we wanted our celebration to look like, but we can choose to treasure those memories and/or find a new reason to celebrate. The bittersweet nature of acknowledging our grief, while creating meaning around what we do have means we don’t abandon any part of ourselves. Instead, we are celebrating as complete people, even if those people are carrying pain with them.

Darkness is not the banishment of light, it’s an invitation for light to enter

Our holidays this year might not feel overly abundant with joy, but grief does not have to consume them either. So instead, we should ask ourselves three main questions:

  • What do we want the holidays to look like this year?
  • Who or what do we want to honor?
  • What do we need to help us feel and heal in this moment?

If the holidays have made you reflect on the sadness you feel and you need help learning how to feel joy again, reach out to us at Lifeologie Counseling. It’s our goal as therapists to help teach others how to embrace themselves through turmoil and find a sense of peace.

About Denis Mundere

Denis’s own sense of identity has been shaped by several unique life experiences. He was born in Nairobi Kenya and immigrated to the U.S. when he was 5.5 years old. He grew up in West Michigan before going to the U.P. for his undergrad at Northern Michigan University. He has since traveled back to Kenya and Tanzania to visit his family, while also building close connections to his friends and family in Grand Rapids. He even got to experience completing his master’s degree at Western Michigan University during a pandemic.

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