“Grief is not a disorder, a disease or a sign of weakness. It is an emotional, physical and spiritual necessity, the price you pay for love. The only cure for grief is to grieve.” – Dr. Earl A. Grollman

Sometimes we have to walk through the pain of loss. It hurts; it’s uncomfortable; and it’s unavoidable. Moreover, navigating through grief during the holidays is like tiptoeing through a minefield. Any wrong move can fire off a blast of excruciating emotions. No matter how much we try to dodge those emotional bombs, there is always a misstep.

How to Survive the Holidays after Losing a Loved One

Our Society & Grief

Our society does not handle grief well. In fact, I believe there is embarrassment attached to grief. We feel badly for causing others’ discomfort if we outwardly express our despair, so we keep it hidden behind closed doors. The holidays intensify grief and exacerbate feelings of loneliness. Most people do not want to bring others down with their sadness, so they isolate themselves. After a loss, I don’t think there is a way to make it through this supposedly happy time of year without sadness; however, I do think there are ways to lessen its strangling grip.

How to Survive the Holidays after Losing a Loved One

How An Act Of Kindness Changed Her Perspective

I read this story not too long ago, and will paraphrase it the best I can:

A pretty, young woman walked into her therapist’s office suffering from severe depression. She heard a woman singing outside the office and inquired about her. The therapist told her she was the cleaning lady and had endured a very difficult life. Her husband had died of cancer and, a month later, her son had been killed in an automobile crash. He proceeded to explain to the sad, young woman that the cleaning lady managed to stay remarkably happy. Before the young woman knew it, the therapist had invited the singing, cleaning lady into the room.

The therapist asked, “Can you tell this young lady why you are so happy?”

The cleaning woman replied, “After the death of my son and husband, I was very sad. I could barely get out of bed. One day, my neighbor was sick, so I brought him some food. I noticed that I felt happier from this single act. From that day on, I decided to do something kind for someone each day. It was selfish of me, really. I did it for myself because it made me feel better. So, you see, it was by accident that I discovered acts of kindness helped to relieve my grief.”

Give Yourself Time To Grieve

It is important to allow oneself time to go through the grieving process, and this process doesn’t suddenly halt because of the holidays. It is not only okay to be sad, but important to feel loss. Emotions are what makes us human and separate us from other species. However, putting a smile on someone else’s face by completing a single act of kindness during this holiday season may just light up your own.

How to Survive the Holidays after Losing a Loved One

Start New Traditions

Sometimes, a shift in perspective can also lessen our suffering. The holidays can be the perfect time to begin a new tradition in honor of a loved one. Acknowledging even the daily, small things that we are grateful for brings positivity to the moment. As one goes through the day with that awareness, positive feelings grow like interest on an investment. A walk in nature can also rejuvenate our soul. Noticing the majestic shimmer of a fresh snowfall or the delicate intricacies of a flower illustrates to us that this world truly is wonderful. Finally, the classic movie, It’s a Wonderful Life reminds us that we all have purpose; every life matters; and we need community.

I wish everyone a blessed, holiday season.