The holidays--- that time immediately after Halloween when the stores start stocking Christmas decorations, and we start stockpiling expectations. The frenetic pace seems to start earlier and earlier. Thanks to COVID-19, we had the added challenge of a very real and present danger to our health. As Thanksgiving neared we weren’t just making menu choices, we had to weight the risks of spending time with family, some of us cancelling THIS year in order to ensure we could all be together next year. Post-Thanksgiving spikes in virus contraction, hard-to-come by gaming systems, more CDC recommendations, and school closures added to the panic and grief we’ve collectively been feeling in 2020.
Grief, you say? Make no mistake, each of us has lost something this year.
And worst of all, over 311,000 American families have also lost loved ones due to COVID-19.* Countless others have been lost to cancer, old age, accident, and suicide. So what should we do, when the entire country is experiencing grief of some kind?
First and foremost, it is essential that we acknowledge our individual and collective grief. Sadly there are some in positions of power whose behavior and lack of acknowledgement send a message of dismissal. But we can and should do better with one another. SEE the people in your life and what they’ve lost. Speaking of it is not offensive. In fact, it is usually appreciated. (*According to CDC as of December 18, 2020)
There is a myth and a golden rule about grief.
MYTH: People do not want to talk about their grief. In reality, most people would like to the chance to voice their disappointment, loss, anguish, and pain. When someone dies the people around the mourner tend to avoid the topic but generally mourners want to share why they miss their loved one.
GOLDEN RULE: People want to be seen and heard. Acknowledging their pain lets them know they are seen. If they choose to share more, listen.
Second, it is vital that we not compare or rank grief. Grief, like many things, is relative. What we can do is notice the humanity in grief by recalling a time when we felt loss.
Lastly, we must remove the stigma from mourning, which is often perceived as weakness. In our society we are quick to encourage children to get back to school or employees to get back to work, as if the diversion will help the healing process. Nothing helps the healing process except experiencing it all and time.
As I mentioned in a previous post about grief anniversaries, dread of an approaching holiday can occur because we are forced to face the reality of our loved one’s passing.
The holidays are especially difficult for someone who is grieving because they often have memories of a loved one associated with the beauty and promise of the season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or winter solstice, this time of year is about reflection, gratitude, light, love, and new beginnings. This can feel at odds with the void left by someone we love. We wonder “how can I go on? How can I celebrate when all I feel Is pain? How can I make plans when all I want is to go back to a time when my loved one was still here?”
On top of these big emotions, we heap tons of expectations and obligations. Especially for women who typically do a lot o