Navigating grief during the holidays

Grief. Holidays. Two seemingly contradictory words. We think of holidays as colorful, happy, celebratory occasions with food and rich tradition. Grief is quiet, lonely, stoic, uncontrollable. But with what the whole world has been going through for the past few years (don’t make us say it, you know what we’re talkin’ about) all of us are experiencing the dichotomy of celebration and destitute. The people we’ve lost come into our thoughts more often during these times because it’s when we saw them, cared for them, and loved them most memorably. Remember that feelings are not temporal, they are eternal. So even if our eyes can’t see them anymore, and our minds have forgotten some of the moments we had with them, our feelings for them never fade, never get smaller. They live in our hearts as long as we remember them and how they made us feel.

In the midst of the celebrations and rituals around the holidays, maybe you can add another ritual to remember those who are gone and who can't physically be around us anymore. Let’s invite their memories and meaning into our traditions. Here are some things we can do:

  • Light a candle next to their picture and have everyone speak to them as if they were there

  • Talk to each other about events and memories you remember with that person

  • A moment of silence or a happy toast as you mention their names before the holiday meal

  • A prayer to wish them peace and love

It is wonderful to share these moments with your children because then they learn:

  • What death means and how it’s not the end of that person

  • To not fear or dread death

  • That grief can transform into a deep love and homage to that person

  • How important it is to remember important people - that they don’t just disappear and become irrelevant

  • That they can be comforted by being with family and that grief doesn't have to be felt alone

  • How to navigate these feelings and coping mechanisms so they can use them (sorry to bring this up) when you are gone

So the holidays don't have to only be loud, colorful gift-giving events. They can also include quiet rituals that help us heal, express, and release the grief and pain of loss. And in these moments, our bonds with each other deepen and strengthen. And that is the biggest lesson for your child to learn.

Happy, meaningful holidays to everyone.

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