Today’s blog explores the topic of grief and the ways in which holidays can trigger the grieving process within us.
We live in a culture that has created an expectation of celebration and joy that accompanies the holiday season. Holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc.) are supposed to be times of family, fun and celebration. Well, for many, if not most, this could not be farther from the truth. Instead, the holiday season serves as a reminder of our family dysfunctions, our own personal loneliness and the people we have loved and lost in our lives. Mix these painful memories with the anxiety of the financial as well as social expectations that come during this time of year and you have a Christmas punch that is not only toxic but just might indeed prove to be fatal. (The highest rate of suicide is during the holiday season.)
Symptoms of Holiday Distress
The best thing we can do for ourselves and for those we love is to be attentive to the possibility that the upcoming holidays might stir up new layers of grief around the past losses and disappointments in our lives. The healing process of grief is something that continues throughout our lives, resurfacing every time memories of loss are triggered. And, every time these losses are triggered, we have an opportunity to experience another layer of healing….if we are present to the grief and surrender to the healing. The challenge is that we are not always conscious of the symptoms of grief and may neglect acknowledging that it has resurfaced so that we can be present to grief’s promise of healing. As support for all those who may be experiencing the re-emergence of grief during this holiday season, here are some possible symptoms of grief to help you identify that grief has made an appearance, either in yourself or in someone you love:
- general malaise
- low-grade sicknesses
- lack of motivation
- impatience or restlessness
- anger or frustration
- lack of direction
- avoidance (not wanting to go to holiday parties, celebrations, etc.)
- fanatical, pressured, forceful holiday participation (a face of denial)
“Treatment” for the grief
The good news is that there is an effective treatment for grief…and it is really quite simple. The treatment is ATTENTIVE PRESENCE. In other words, to allow our losses and disappointments to heal, we need only be present to the grief. Here’s the quick prescription:
- Acknowledge that you are grieving
- Name the loss/es
- Be present to the emotions that surface – anger, sadness, loneliness, despair, denial, etc. In other words….LET YOURSELF be sad, angry, etc.
- Surrender to the process of grieving….it is not something you can control, manipulate or hasten along
- ALLOW support in other words…..DO NOT grieve alone…let your friends, loved ones, family members, counselor, spiritual director, grief support group, recovery group, etc. be a source of support for you as your grieve!
It is important during times of grief to invite support. Whether it be a friend, family member, spiritual director, pastor or loved one, DO NOT grieve alone. And…..if you feel suicidal…..GET HELP NOW. And here are the numbers for the National Suicide Hotline if you or someone you know are entertaining thoughts of despair or death during this holiday season:
How might grief be making an appearance for you during this holiday season?
What tools do you have for identifying and being present to grief?
What support can you invite to help you through the grieving process?
Authentic Freedom Ministries