Grief is the winter of emotional life, and a holidays grief can be complicated by the holiday season, which has the Norman Rockwell picture of family gathered together to share good cheer.
There is usually a fire in the fire place, and stockings hung with care, and lots of smiles and presents, and for those of us who have had losses during the holiday season, the invitation is to ignore anniversary grief.
Grief is difficult to ignore, though, so an understanding of the process of grief, and its length can be helpful so we can weave holidays grief effectively into our lives during the holiday season.
Once I have a feel for the holidays grief process, I can recognize it and honor it and even create a plan to process it if need be.
Please remember that grief is an internal feeling, and it can be difficult to experience, without some training, while mourning is my external expression of grief, a visit to a grave or creating a small altar containing a momento or two.
I have done grief work and led many grieving processes in experiential groups and workshops.
The part of grief that seems so overwhelming is what seems to be out of control crying and sobbing.
Once you get to that place a couple of times, and recognize that it will not last forever, and that there is a huge sense of relief that comes from letting go of that pain, you feel much more secure in touching the pain, even creating a place and time to do that, so the grief and mourning become part of your life, rather than all of your life.
And if your anniversary is during the holidays, or your loss is during the holidays, you can create some rituals for yourself that make it possible to acknowledge your grief and mourn appropriately while still moving on with the here and now.
Part of that planning might include a recognition of the season and the Winter Solstice and the need for increased vitamin D and full spectrum sunlight.
Many cultures celebrate a festival of light at the end of the year, and I think it is important to acknowledge those traditions for us human beings, and know that holidays grief and mourning can be impacted by the lack of sunlight.
Give yourself permission to be alone, and to enjoy some privacy with a small treat or two.
Enjoy a humorous memory, and have a moments gratitude for the blessings shared with your loved one.
If your holiday grief demands a cancellation of the holiday, you can certainly do that also.
Research how our culture has handled mourning and the signals it is ok to send to the external world about your internal emotions and your mourning.
How did our culture evolve our current grieving process?
Hint; We have not always had the traditions we currently display. How has commercialization impacted our holidays grief?
My point is that you do not need to do what is culturally accepted for your grief, it is a wonderful gift to yourself to create your own ritual.
When my younger brother died unexpectedly in September of 2001, I created a funeral service for him, and my sister and I and her husband Jerry and my brother's best friend created a service for him that honored his memory.
As the dawn came, I prepared the earth for him, and a stone, and we said our prayers, and said goodbye as best we could, and I visit him in my prayers every day. We celebrated his gifts to us, and remembered times from our childhood when we were close.
And then we went about our lives. My son who was three at the time, helped pick stones that we put into the earth with him, and played nearby as we said goodbye and returned my brother to the Earth.
At dusk, I returned to smudge again, and I hope we got him sent off ok.
We used native traditions mostly, since his lifestyle did not reflect a commitment to spiritual principals, and his friends, who have come to his grave from around the country have celebrated in their own way, one by leaving two cans of Coors beer by his stone. I hope they are still there.
The point is that we can create our own funerals and rituals to honor our grief.
They will be as individual as our losses.
Please write me in the form below to let me know of your grieving processes.
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