I have always heard that the holidays are a hard time to be missing someone. Up to this point, they have been difficult, but this year has been the hardest. This is now my fourth Christmas without my husband and I am finding it to be one of the most difficult!
I am not sure why this is. At first, I tried to figure it out. Why is this holiday so hard? After all, it’s not new for me. I almost felt a little angry at myself for feeling this way, but then I paused and thought it’s not about the “why” or about beating myself up about it. It is what it is, and it is part of the process! I reaffirmed my vow to own the grieving process in all its ups and downs.
Be in the Present
I have noticed in my own grieving that when I forecast the future or dwell in the past, the grieving becomes worse. When I am present in the moment, it seems much more manageable. What this means is, when I catch myself thinking about all that I am now missing or how the future will look, it takes me into stories that put me in a worse, more emotional place. Don’t get me wrong I do think about previous holidays we had together and reminisce about the good times, I don’t live in the past though. I smile at the memories that I have and then return to the present.
The same happens when I start to question whether I will be single at future holidays, or if I will ever have a significant other to share the holidays with again. I continue questioning if the holidays will ever look the same. Again, I take myself into a place of fear about the future and what that will look like. Both of these situations cause me unneeded sorrow.
When I find myself getting stuck in the past or forecasting the future, I gently bring myself back to the present moment by taking a couple of deep breaths and grounding myself in the present moment. The thing is, I will always have the memories and I have no idea what the future holds, so I choose to not let these bring on more grief than I need.
I have practiced this one since my husband first passed. I honour where I am at. I feel into the feelings I am having at that moment so that they don’t build up and take over me. If I am having a sad day, then it is a sad day!
I honour my feelings and I recognize that they too will pass. How I do this is different depending on how strong the feelings are sometimes, it just takes acknowledging them and letting it pass. Sometimes it takes a mindful practice of recognizing the feeling, having self-compassion, and acknowledging myself and what I am going through. Whatever it takes, I stay with the feeling until it naturally passes. And that’s just it, it does pass, and another one comes rolling in like a wave, sometimes it’s a positive one and sometimes it’s a difficult one. Whatever it may be, because I am choosing to let them pass and honouring them when they are present, they do not become overwhelming.
If you are struggling with your emotions try honouring your feelings, let them happen and don’t try to push them aside or stuff them down – it only makes things worse. You can do this by saying “I am sad today and that is ok”, or “I am grieving today and that is ok”. This gives you permission to have the feeling and acknowledges what you are going through.
One of my most profound lessons from the grieving process is that there is healing in reaching out to others. I have some pretty amazing supports in my life who are there for me. The people that I choose to share with are specific people who do not try to fix me or do not offer unsolicited advice, rather they are people whom I trust and know are there for me. They do not try and make things better, they just offer their presence and a shoulder when it is needed. They support me in the way I need to be and that is priceless.
Previously, I had always felt I needed to be strong and that I was burdening others when I asked for support. It is through the grieving that I realized I have so many wonderful people in my life who are there for me, I just need to reach out. Realizing this has made such a difference! As I said, the people I share with are very special people who I know can offer me the support I need. If you are struggling this holiday, I encourage you to share the weight of your grief with people who can support you. If they are true supports, it won’t drag them down, and it certainly will take some of the load off of you.
To find these supports, be clear on what you need and ask for it. So many times, others feel they need to fix us and they try to offer unsolicited advice or try to show us that it’s really not that bad, or they try to change the focus back to them. I believe that most do this because they feel it will help, but, for me, this makes things worse. Set your boundaries on what support you need and ask for it! If you just need someone to listen, then ask for that. If you need someone to help you in completing your holiday to-do-list, then ask for that. If you need someone to reminisce with, then ask for that. Be clear on what you need and ask for it from the people you trust. I have found there are so many people who are willing, we just need to reach out.
These are three of the things that I am practicing this holiday and it seems to be lightening the grieving and helping me through the holidays. Grieving is difficult anytime, but the holidays have this expectation of being joyful and bright and, sometimes, they just are not…and that is ok! Love yourself through this difficult time!
Sending you much love and hope this holiday season!