There’s that saying to someone going through a hard time, “Things will get better.” I hate that. It makes me feel like things will get better because I will move on and forget about my grief and my loved ones. It makes me feel like my loved ones will become a part of my past and I won’t think of them as much.
I know these people are just trying to help but that statement is just not true. Things do not get better. We just get used to the feeling in the chest like the heart is being squeezed by a vise. And during the holidays with all the memories pouring in, that feeling takes over the entire body. So just how does one deal with grief during the holidays?
Where are you Christmas?
Since Thanksgiving this year I have felt frozen for fear of remembering too much causing a complete collapse that would render me unable to take care of my three young kids. I am very good at sticking my head in the sand and ignoring what’s going on within but it just sits there, waiting until I come up for air. It is always there.
I’ve tried keeping busy this season and find I am looking for holiday gifts as often as I can. As if this will fill the void in my heart. I put out so many lights and decorations, but this doesn’t help that empty feeling I have in my heart. It’s still there and possibly always will be there.
There is one Christmas I will never forget. My parents and my brother and I were traveling to see relatives for the holiday. We didn’t return until after Christmas. When we got home, my brother and I walked into a living room filled with gifts from Santa, who had brought them while we were away. The most memorable gifts and possibly the only ones I remember that year were two red sleds set up on the couch. I asked my mom about it just before she passed, wondering how they were able to pull something off like that. She told me a story of that magical Christmas and it’s forever in my heart as nothing short of amazing.
So how does one find that magical feeling during the holidays when you are grieving? How do you put aside the pain in your heart and remember what is important when your important person is no longer with you?
The Jolly in the Holly
Here are a few things I’ve found give me some solace during the holidays:
- Find a special candle and light it in your loved one’s honor. You can offer a prayer every time you light it, too, if you feel so inclined!
- Use photos of your loved ones for holiday gifts. I put together a gift for my brother and sister-in-law using one photo of my parents dancing when they were just married and another one the summer when my mom got sick and my dad starting losing weight. They don’t look their best but they look so happy. That’s how I want to remember them.
- Make a holiday treat your loved one enjoyed making.
- Send holiday cards to friends of your loved one(s) or distant relatives with whom they always kept in touch.
- Take good care of yourself. Don’t feel like you have to do all of the activities or traditions you did with your loved ones (or even new ones). Pick one to focus on and do that.
This is why I get out of bed this time of year. This is why I show up for my kids when my heart is so heavy it’s hard to stand up. I show up and try my hardest to make things magical for my kids. I want them to feel what I felt that Christmas with the red sleds. So maybe that’s why people say things will get better because you learn how to push down the grief and be in the present and interact with the world again. You get up because the rest of the people in your life depend on you.
But it doesn’t actually FEEL better. I think it’s just that we learn how to function again with this weight in our hearts.