The AFTER Company Holiday Sympathy Box

Grieving in Times of Celebration

Grieving During the Holidays

The holiday season can be a bittersweet time when you’ve lost a loved one. Whether the loss was recent or many years ago the pain doesn’t go away – it might get “easier” but it’s there. You can’t look far without seeing images of family and friends enjoying the merriment of the season. This can make you feel even worse than you already do because you feel mostly emptiness, anger, and sadness instead. There’s no such thing as an ideal holiday, even when not compounded by grief. The best gift you can give yourself this time of year is to acknowledge yourself and tell others how you truly feel.

A Note for the Griever: Take Care of Yourself

Holidays are about tradition, and one or more people who helped create traditions in your family or circle of friends is no longer here. Instead of happiness and excitement, you feel angry, annoyed, lost and want to push everyone and everything aside. Your emotions and thoughts are normal. If your tradition is to spend the holidays with extended family and you’re just not up to it, don’t force it. DO YOU. Grab your journal, a cozy blanket, light a candle, pour a glass of wine and sit; write, phone a friend (we encourage this) or cry until you run out of tears if that’s what you need.  This is your grief.

Communicate the Best You Can with Others Who Are Grieving

If you decide to attend or host a gathering, having time to talk about the person you all loved can be healing. One source of confusion among all human beings is the fact that everyone grieves differently and because no two griefs are quite the same, some may not understand. Remind yourself and your supporters of this and make a commitment to simply respect one another. Be Real. Be Fair. Be Compassionate.  

One concept to try when gathering with those in grief is to each grab a sheet of paper, cut it into as many pieces as you like and ask each person to write their favorite reminders of your lost loved one: write memories, sayings, characteristics or songs that remind you of them, fold them up, seal them with a kiss, drop them into a jar and bring it home with you.  When you need a positive moment (and we know you will need lots) open the jar, take one out and honor the memory and if it brings a smile or a laugh, hold onto it tight. (If there are multiple people grieving, write the same memory for each available jar so each person has a jar to leave with).

A Note for the Supporter: Comforting Someone Who is Grieving During the Holidays

Sadly and matter of factly, as we continue to evolve, we are forgetting to TALK to one another. Talking is not texting, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram message or any other means of communication outside of a phone call or face to face conversation. People tend to avoid challenging conversations. While we can’t discount any form of empathy, we can acknowledge the difference between a phone call to hear that persons voice or a hug to feel the pain of the grief and squeeze as if you are taking on some portion of the pain.  We avoid things because we often don’t know what to do or say or exactly how to say it. There isn’t a right answer, the answer is to just DO SOMETHING. 
 

As the supporter, just be there. Be present. Listen. Make eye contact if it’s available. Put down your phone. Laugh and cry with them as you listen to their stories about the one they loved so much who is no longer here. 

Think outside the box, think simply, think in their shoes.  Offer to go shopping, cook, clean, or lend a hand in decorating. Let them know that you’re available, that you are there in whatever capacity serves them.   The most important gift to give them is to recognize that ALL HUMANS face grief and face it differently.  The person crying in your arms this holiday season may be the one comforting you in years to come.

Whether you are grieving or supporting, reach out, be vulnerable and start talking.

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