Grief and the Holiday Season
Grief can move in unexpected ways, often rising up seemingly out of nowhere, reminding us of pain and loss. However, even while being unpredictable and individual, one aspect of the grief experience that is more common than not is the challenge of anniversaries. These might be the anniversary of the day of death, birthdays, marriage, or any event that was significant in your life. These days can often bring back feelings we thought we had worked through, as we are reminded of an event that connects to our loss.
I post about grief and anniversaries this month because we are currently in the season of the year that contains extra anniversaries. In the months from November through February, there are many holidays. Those holidays may be times that you gathered with cherished family or spent time with a beloved who is no longer in your life. That loss may be due to death, but it may also be because of separation, divorce, or anything that has changed the structure of your life. Additionally, these are often the coldest and darkest months of the year which for some will exacerbate these challenging feelings.
What to do if you are feeling these challenges?
First of all, honor that this is an experience you are having. If you are feeling grief, there is a reason why. While the feelings may be uncomfortable or undesirable, it can be good to let yourself feel them. For some, it can be helpful to have a therapist or mental health professional on that journey with us. And if something comes up that you weren’t expecting, you can reach out to our ministry team at or check in with volunteers at the Pastoral Care table after service who can provide a listening ear or help connect you with someone who can.
Second, do things that are supportive and good for your emotional health. Give yourself lots of compassion. You may find that you can’t follow through on how you usually engage a holiday. That’s okay. It’s good to not avoid or cancel the holiday, but you may want to see if you can find a different way to engage it. Be realistic about what you can do. If your body has been still for a long time, take a walk or do something physical to shift your energy in a different way. Avoid relying on chemicals such as alcohol to circumvent or numb pain as they can often have complicating side effects that can make grief feel worse. And connect with others who love and care about you as much as you can. Spend time in supportive environments whenever possible. If you need a place to be, our Sunday services, Jazz Vespers, and Winter Solstice Gathering are all opportunities to be present with others.
Finally, find ways to honor that loss in the holidays and events you celebrate. Perhaps that is including the memory of a dead beloved into your tradition, possibly through pictures, ornaments, candles, prayers, or whatever feels appropriate. Maybe it’s creating new traditions that embrace a changed family structure, giving you a chance to celebrate in a different way than before.
All of these and more may help you face grief in these holiday months. But most of all, be kind with yourself as you are experiencing this season. And if you need listening support or logistical support (such as help with groceries) this season, please let us know at . We want to be here to support our ERUUF community as much as possible through these times.
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