November 22, 2021
(FYI, this post is also featured as a guest blog on Laurel Box’s website: https://www.laurelbox.com/blogs/news/navigating-grief-loss-holiday-cheer)
With the falling of the leaves and crisper air in most parts comes an awareness of the upcoming holiday season. In the midst of transitioning décor for fall, I’ve already peaked sightings of turkeys, Christmas trees, and items for the New Year at local stores. It’s honestly left me scratching my head in wonderment about just how near the holidays actually are.
For many folks, the holiday season signals anticipation and heartfelt expectation, as well as gatherings with friends and family. For others, however, this time of year marks a time filled with more somber reflection, frustration, and even guilt.
Why? A 2019 study conducted by WebMD found that approximately 57% of Americans experienced the death of a loved one throughout the last three years, resulting in grief. Further, the onset and ongoing nature of COVID-19 has only served to exacerbate the experience of grief and loss in society, whether by physical death or the loss of hopes and dreams.
Needless to say, it’s not uncommon for those who are grieving to wish they could press ‘pause’ altogether. Understandably, it can be difficult to emotionally navigate the sights and sounds of holiday cheer. Grief not only ebbs and flows, ushering in waves of memories, but can also magnify the stress already associated with the holiday season. In addition, those who grieve may experience internal conflict. On the one hand, they may desire to connect with others and establish new traditions. At the same time, they may feel guilty for the desire, relegating them to the shadows. The distress of it all leaves some grieving hearts actively working to avoid the shower of family-focused festivities and holiday happenings.
An awareness of these sobering facts leaves many questioning how to make sense of the holiday season, while simultaneously honoring the sadness that resides in their hearts.
And unfortunately, there will be aspects of the season that are beyond your control. However, I hope you feel empowered to consider ways to help yourself. While doing so won’t eliminate the ebbs and flows of grief, it will help create a sense of stability and predictability to carry you through the inevitable sights and sounds of holiday cheer around you.
From one grieving heart to another, I’m sending love and peace.