Written By: Skyler Clark
The holidays are often a time that we are told we are supposed to feel joy, gratefulness, and excitement, so why do so many of us feel sadness and grief more strongly this time of year?
With so much emphasis put on family and traditions around the end of the year, it makes sense why we begin to grieve the loved ones we’ve lost more strongly around this time. We can often look around and feel the absence of loved ones who have passed and traditions that feel forever changed because of these losses.
Grief around this time of year can be due to loved ones who have passed but it can also be grieving family and friendships that feel more distant now than in the past. Maybe it’s grieving the family relationships that are strained or unhealthy or are not as they are “supposed” to be. Grieving can also be for the relationships we felt we needed to step away from to protect ourselves. All of these relationship losses feel so much larger at a time of year when we feel so much pressure to be surrounded by loved ones.
It can be so easy to feel frustrated at this grief when we desire to feel the joy and excitement that everyone else seems to be feeling. It may then cause us to just want to shove these emotions aside and try to force those feelings of happiness. But making time to feel this grief may actually be the way also to make room to feel the positive emotions we want to feel. Allowing yourself to feel the sadness of loss and how things have changed because of that loss can be so important this time of year. You are allowed to have joy for what is good in your life while also grieving the losses.
Maybe this looks like finding a trusted friend or family member to talk to about the ways you miss your loved one. Finding a counselor to share stories of loved ones or navigating feelings of loss can also be helpful. Setting aside moments to get alone and journal about emotions you are feeling also helps to get these emotions out. Maybe it’s just setting time aside to be alone and reflect on what you may be experiencing. Grieving can feel scary but can also be a way to honor your loved one.
Part of grieving around the holidays can be the grieving of how it feels traditions have changed or been lost due to loved ones passing away or relationships changing. How can you create new traditions? Perhaps start by asking yourself what you need to feel from these new traditions. Do you desire to feel comfort? Connection? Simplicity? Maybe you desire to feel the excitement? What holiday traditions may help line you up with that feeling? Maybe there are traditions or activities your loved one particularly enjoyed that you can implement that would help you feel closer to them or that you can do in honor of them. Even having an ornament made in their memory may be a helpful way to feel like you are in some way including them this time of year.
Overall if you are feeling grief this time of year more strongly please know you are not alone. Grief around the holidays is a normal part of grieving a loved one and it’s so helpful to allow ourselves space and time to remember them even through the hard emotions. Be careful not to let the pressure to feel only joy and happiness create guilt for the harder emotions you may be experiencing. Be gentle with yourself and make time to slow down even in the midst of the holiday busyness if needed. You are allowed to take a step back from things you might normally have done in previous years if you need more space as you work through these emotions.