Grief at Christmas: How about just being Human?

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Every time a special occasion is pending, a certain birthday, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, or another Christmas, I get a feeling in the pit of my stomach about how I will handle it without those loved ones who have already passed on. Christmas is one of the toughest times of year for many of us living with invisible illnesses whether they be mental, emotional or physical.

One of the first feelings to follow that awful “boot to the stomach sensation” is a sense of, well, I guess it is called “shame.” Shame that I can’t just buck up and join in, shame that I need to take time out to have a little cry in the bathroom, shame that while everyone is toasting and cheering and jollying along I fight back the tears and an urge to flee all things overwhelmingly festive.

Why should we be ashamed of having any feelings at any time of the year? The answer is we should not feel ashamed of having our feelings, whatever and whenever they may be. Sometimes just gently allowing those feelings to pass through us is the only way out of the emotional funk we may find ourselves in during special occasions and celebrations. Sometimes the feeling won’t pass because the loss is so recent, we are grappling with such a an excruciating range of normal human emotions, we just have to live through it somehow in our own ways no matter the outside pressures.

The first Christmas without a loved one is, I find, always the worst. Every ornament they made or every tradition they participated in feels so hollow without them. That feeling intensified for me the more people told me “get with it” or “get over it” or “you just have to go on.” Advice like this is best ignored because it is so negating and disrespectful of not just the loved one we are trying to cope without but of ourselves and our feelings as though we have no right to have or process our own emotions.

The right to process our own emotions is something we are all entitled to.  Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Usually people behave in invalidating ways just because our mood or what we are doing does not fit in with their agenda. There is no excuse for that kind of insensitivity that can feel so like abuse to the tender, still grieving heart.

My solution is not a panacea, I have no answers for anyone other than myself. What I found myself doing was “little celebrations” between the seeming unstoppable tears I had to just let go of. These little celebrations were usually nothing anyone else could see or notice. It was about me coming to terms with a raft of special occasions ahead of me to get through.

Recently I attended a huge family dinner of 22 people and found myself twice needing and taking time to myself. I stepped outside and just stood there covered by the roof of the restaurant entry way, watching the rain fall and breathing slow, deep breaths while I thought of everyone gone before me. In the puddles, some as big as small ponds, I saw all the light being reflected back, the store lights, the street lights and the Christmas lights.

In those reflections I began to see that no matter what happens to us, no matter how many losses, the light was being doubled and tripled and shining back brightly no matter what. This little comfort was enough to get me back inside the door to join the party I was with and carry on.  After the dinner I took a teary bathroom time out and was heartened by the Christmas music playing, it seemed, to my soul, as the speakers released one of my mother’s favorite Christmas Carols. These are the little comforts I try to find everywhere, songs or sights that resonate with my soul and let me know it is okay to enjoy these things, to even be happy about them and perhaps even sing along if I am able to.

There is, in my opinion, no greater success than finding your own way through the dark grip of grief. While there is no one size fits all, we can all do things or enjoy things in memory of those we love. The very thing you find yourself teary about may be what also lifts your heart and lets you honor the memory of your loved ones. For me, giving back is always a way through these tough emotions because I can do it in honor of a loved one. Putting a toy under the local charity tree or just dropping some coins in the bell ringers kettle in honor of my loved ones went a long way to helping me come to terms with my losses.

Even in the falling of snow, that first magical snow that colors all things white and bright, I can hear my mother saying how she had to hurry to get the laundry in off the line before it froze stiff as boards while my father lamented the crazy drivers out there who still tried to drive like the roads were dry. Hearing those familiar voices in our heads or singing along to their favorite songs are just a couple of ways to celebrate those gone before us.

Take your time, take a breather or take a whole evening or day to yourself, whatever it takes for you to feel calm and able to face the festivities again. Finding what gives us comfort is such a gift to our own hearts, we need only to stay open to recognizing and receiving those little gifts, whatever form they may take.

Does this mean we won’t be sad or shedding tears through the events or holiday? No, it means the opposite. We are allowed to be sad or shed tears if we need to. We are all, after all, only human.

Wishing everyone a safe and peaceful Christmas.

(c) Janni Styles

 

 

 

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20 thoughts on “Grief at Christmas: How about just being Human?

  1. It’s a difficult time for me too. I try not to feel it, but that doesn’t work. So like you, I give myself a break now and then, and then soldier on.. sigh. Is it January yet?!?!?!?

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  2. Wishing YOU a safe and peaceful Christmas. When you can’t do it….don’t try….if you feel like trying DO. Probably you’ll get through it and possibly have better thoughts to remember at the next festive event. I’m not good with “events” either so do sympathize. ~~dru~~

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  3. Reblogged this on mira prabhu and commented:
    Being human…sometimes hard to cry when we are pressured into putting on those great smiles and joining others in celebrating major holidays. I’m weird in that I never ever enjoyed these holidays…perhaps as a child, for the special treats and gifts,..but not as an adult. I prefer to feel the way I’m feeling regardless of an event. And Jannie Styles points us that we should allow ourselves to feel all our feelings no matter what the occasion…and I second her! That said, happy happy end of year to you all!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a nice surprise to find you reblogged this, Mira. Thank you and thanks always for your wise words, I appreciate your feedback as well. I understand not “feeling” the holidays. Sigh. If more understood, there would be less pressure for many of us.

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  4. Janni have a lovely Christmas when it comes. I hope you will because once again you have given great advice and shown how it is possible to carry on and get there xxxxx

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  5. Happy Holidays..

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  6. May I offer another perspective? A holiday called by any name is a celebration. It is a commemoration of something or someone precious. It may even be fictional in nature. I will let you draw your own conclusions about that. It is an eventful occasion that can take us to amazing, joyful places… If we allow it. I know. Many times it brings families together that don’t always see eye-to-eye. The discussions around the dinner table can quite possibly devolve into rancor. But holidays can bring with them a possibility… A possibility to forgive, and let love reign. I believe this is what the “Holiday Season” is all about. I do realize that such times of year can be difficult for many, but, I am inclined to see holidays as a time to join; a time to heal. Yes, that can involve tears. But I would also suggest that painful memories of the past are largely fabricated by the mind. “I can be hurt by nothing but my thoughts.” Why? Because “I am not a victim of the world that I see.” These quotes from A Course in Miracles can be helpful in reminding us that we have a choice in how we address the holidays. We can react according to our painful memories; or we can respond by joining with the spirit of the occasion. Nothing we have experienced is here now. We are simply offered another opportunity to begin anew. Ultimately that is all that matters. May ALL of us make everyday a holiday… or a holy day… if you prefer. Blessings!

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    • Thank you for confirming much of what I say. I am familiar with the Course in Miracles, have the all the books, but not everyone can relate to the principles of it. Just today another comrade blogger posted about feeling depressed, so overwhelmed she is almost paralytic. In my piece I wanted to give people permission to just feel what they feel. Though Marianne Williamson has many great teachings, myself, I am more attracted to Jean Vanier’s writings, especially his book called Becoming Human. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. May your holidays be peaceful and bright.

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  7. Wonderful post, Janni. So many people are dealing with issues this time of year – grief, chronic pain, a falling out with a loved one, etc. There are pressures to do everything perfectly, and to spread unending holiday cheer. Feelings, emotions, and illness don’t come to a stop just because it’s the holidays. Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

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    • So true, Tricia, so many struggling. Somehow our struggles are amplified at this time of year. Not all of us can have a “Norman Rockwell” Christmas and that’s really okay, too. Wherever we are, whatever we are feeling is okay. Even if others don’t, won’t or can’t understand us, we are okay right where we are. Love and hugs to you, Tricia, have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year. ❤️❤️❤️

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  8. You expressed this in such a lovely way, and I’m sure you know you are not alone in your feelings. Here’s to a better year…

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