To anyone grieving this Holiday Season:
This December marks seven years since my dear friend and lover passed away. Nothing about that winter felt merry, and I certainly didn't feel in the "holiday spirit." My heart was breaking while the rest of the world carried on singing carols and exchanging gifts, putting on their best holiday game face. That whole season was a blur. The mentor at the local grief group suggested "this Christmas will be different and the most important thing is to let it be." She guided us to do what felt right for each of us in the group. Some felt up for participating in their traditional holiday rounds, while others ordered take-out and stayed in. I've learned that both are completely okay.
That year I participated in the family Christmas shindig in a zombie-like state, simply going through the motions. It was simply too much, too soon.
I want to offer anyone who may be grieving the loss of a loved one, the opportunity to take the Holidays off -- if that is what feels right. People around you may not understand, but I support you 100 percent in your decision. There is simply no right or wrong way to get through this time of year. The most important thing is that you attend to your own needs and emotions first. Instead of gifts, I suggest wrapping yourself in love and compassion.
Truth is, there's no quick-fix to getting through the season pain-free, but freeing yourself from the season's hustle and bustle may bring you tremendous peace.
On Christmas Eve I will be at the movies, sipping a glass of wine and snacking on extra buttery popcorn. It may seem unconventional to some, but that's my Christmas Eve plan. It's taken me seven years fast forwarded to embrace that I can spend Christmas however I want.
Christmas isn't the glowing string of lights or baking the cookies "just right." It's a feeling of the heart, a sense of magic and connectedness. Grief may turn our whole world upside down, but it also brings moments of grace. In-between the painstaking ache and the joyous memory of a loved one's smile, lives an indescribable amount of love that can only be felt with the heart. Love is the most beautiful thing we humans have to offer. If you are grieving, this means you have loved someone until their last breath, and that my friend is the biggest gift you could give all lifetime.
You are the gift -- a Christmas miracle.
This post is part of Common Grief, a Healthy Living editorial initiative. Grief is an inevitable part of life, but that doesn't make navigating it any easier. The deep sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one, the end of a marriage or even moving far away from home, is real. But while grief is universal, we all grieve differently. So we started Common Grief to help learn from each other. Let's talk about living with loss. If you have a story you'd like to share, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.