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Holidays and Loss Part 2- The final Act


After posting the first blog in this series, Loss and the Holidays Part one, I was reminded by some readers that loss comes in so many different forms. As one man pointed out, who lost his wife of 53 years, his memories bring comfort to him. Perhaps it keeps his spouse alive in his heart when he can spend time in his thoughts about years together, traditions celebrated and the feeling of a love well shared.

For some the looking back doesn’t bring those thoughts, for me this year Christmas feels more like dread. I know that is such a strong word but I feel like I can manage the feelings of loss through death, loss through estrangement, loss through addiction, loss through family conflict better without Christmas music playing, scenes of happy families on all forms of social media and the constant reminder during holiday seasons of what the “happy” family looks like.

I have been a parent for over 25 years, I have 7 children and a bonus son, and my holiday journeys as a parent have not been always easy. I think I learned through my children that Christmas can feel busy, chaotic, overwhelming and stressful. As a Mom I wanted the scenes of the Hallmark movies in my home, the smells from my childhood of gingerbread, cinnamon, a turkey cooking, laughter and twinkling lights. They brought feelings of love and safety to me. For many of my children they did not. I have a deep yearning to give that to my children, for them to feel safe with what made me feel loved and safe. I know that people might read this and think, oh come on Laura, that is a fairy tale but the further I got away from that idyllic picture the more I struggled to hold on to it. As you can imagine, nothing could live up to my memories that over time had become unrealistic, idyllic and really kind of perfect.

As I age, into an old wise crone, I have tried to make Christmas less about me and more about what my family might need. I think more specifically I am letting go of what I believed I needed to create. I am learning to do the things that I need for me and let go of some of those expectations.

Isn’t that really life, that we have to figure out how to recreate celebrations, family moments as our families change. Death is just one of the things we have to make space for. This year I am trying to figure out how to do the holidays without one of my parents. There has been an underlying emotion in this post. I am going to just rip the band aid of and say it and own it.

It’s grief!

Grief is the painful emotional response to Loss. Grief is both a deeply personal emotion and a complex experience. We each live and experience grief differently. When I said I can manage my loss better outside of the holiday season what I am really experiencing is more intense grief due to the holidays. The guttural anguish of the emotion is more raw when we mix memories, holidays and our current reality.

Yeah, I know that’s hard to sit in. Anguish, grief, suffering….

We don’t really talk about this do we?! Maybe because we don’t really want to see it or think about it in someone else, because we all carry loss.

We have all experienced it.

So when we see it in another, we have a mirror into our own grief. Yet, we all have different comfort and experiences of grief.

For some, my distress might seem unfamiliar, perhaps even unsettling. It could elicit a sense of anger in those who witness it. The experience of grief, on your part, may manifest as denial, anger, feelings of guilt, fear, or even a sense of numbness—a void of emotions. Some individuals may grapple with an overwhelming sadness, giving rise to feelings of solitude or a deep yearning for a person or event.

This week marked what would have been my father’s 89th birthday, and I found myself longing for his presence. The grief is still raw, as it has only been two months since his passing. Looking through pictures, I experienced comfort at the sight of his smiling face. That is the strange thing about grief, emotions fluctuate, and there are instances where one might experience multiple feelings at the same time. The complexity of grief is characterized by its ability to evoke a range of emotions that can shift and intertwine as part of the healing process. Grief can really suck.

What happens when those memories are not comforting but triggering?!

Grief, as another reader expressed to me, doesn’t just come through the death of a loved one. It can come from separation, estrangement, conflict, addiction and on the list can go.

I experienced, this week, the grief that comes from loving someone addicted. One of my children is struggling with addiction. Their choices, their demons, their life leave me in shock and disbelief and the loss of possibilities rocks me with a grief that is so profound that numbness is my only solace. I wish the numbness would stay, but it does not sustain. It comes when it becomes too much….

In times of grief, the feeling of loneliness can be overwhelming, but it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Our shared humanity often connects us through the shared experience of loss and suffering. It’s a fundamental aspect of the human condition. In a world that currently seems filled with challenges, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of collective struggles.

As we navigate the holidays, which can magnify the sense of loss, it’s crucial to acknowledge that grieving during this time is especially challenging. The festive atmosphere can accentuate the absence of loved ones, making the void feel more pronounced. However, even in the midst of grief, there is room for hope.

While the holidays may emphasize the void left by those we’ve lost, they also offer an opportunity for reflection and remembrance. Celebrating the moments shared and cherishing the memories can become a source of strength. In the ebb and flow of emotions, hope can emerge from the resilience of the human spirit, gradually illuminating the path forward.

As you navigate this complex terrain of grief during the holidays, remember that the capacity for healing and finding joy in life remains. It may take time, and the process may be challenging, but the human spirit has an innate ability to endure, adapt, and eventually find hope even in the face of loss.

If you need some assistance  navigating the holiday season, we are always here to help at Mind 2 Heart Connections. Visit us here

Written by Laura Banks, RSW, MSW Owner of Mind 2 Heart Connections and fellow ADHDer

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